China's crackdown on Christians and their churches is intensifying as officials have targeted yet another church with a major arrest that included nearly a dozen children.
For more than a decade, international observers have predicted China would eventually become the world's largest Christian nation. Evangelical leader and former presidential candidate Gary Bauer believes that growth is behind the increased persecution campaign by President Xi Jinping and other government officials.
Last weekend, nearly 50 members of the Early Rain Covenant Church, including 11 children, were arrested in the city of Chengdu. Public security bureau agents closed the church last December and arrested Pastor Wahng-Yee and 160 Christians. This time, the church reports at least two of its members were "violently beaten."
Early Rain Covenant Church posted this update on Facebook:
"By 8:00 p.m. last night, 44 members had been arrested during the '2/24' Sabbath raids. Of those arrested, 11 were children. The youngest to be detained and taken to the police station was a little more than two months old. Tang Chunliang and his wife were hit in the face by a plainclothes police officer at the police station... Some, including children, did not eat anything. Some were not released until 2:00 a.m. Tired children slept on ice-cold tables and floors. Others were not released until 6:00 a.m."
"At the moment, we have confirmed that at least 11 people have been placed in administrative detention," they continued.
Some 60 million Christians live in China, with most worshipping in underground "house" churches.
Bauer believes the communist regime is nervous that Christian ethics could lead to a challenge in government authority. Since becoming president, Xi Jinping has taken a tougher approach against Christianity than his predecessor.
The ruling Communist party has initiated a five-year plan to make Christianity more reflective of its socialist values, while also incorporating Buddhist and Confucian teachings. The control includes state approval for churches, surveillance and limits on sermon topics.
That oversight has led a majority of Christians to move toward underground worship. The government response has been brutal, resulting in church burning, seized property, hundreds of arrests and confiscated Bibles.
Other efforts have included a ban on online Bible sales and a demand that Christian icons be replaced with pictures of Chairman Mao Zedong and Xi.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) has accused China of "taking a hammer and sickle to the cross."
"As a member of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, I've heard horrifying stories of what the Chinese government is doing to the Christians they imprison," Bauer writes in the Washington Examiner. "For decades, China tried to control the population by limiting couples to one child. Those who became pregnant with a second child were often fined or forced to have abortions."
"Because of a cultural preference for boys, Chinese parents would often abort baby girls. The result is that today there are some 100 million Chinese men who can't find wives," Bauer continued. "But now Chinese men are being told that if they join the Communist Party, they can go to the internment camps to pick out a Christian woman as a wife. This is the perverse result of a government that tries to control the most basic human rights of its citizens, the freedom of religion and the freedom to assemble."
"Beijing is not dumb. It knows that the greatest threat to its grip on power is a compelling competing message that exposes the empty promises of communism. Christianity preaches peace, and the basic dignity and worth of all human beings, while communism seeks total control and prizes obedience to the state that leaves no room for God," said Bauer who is also President of American Values.