Thursday, February 28, 2008

Expert says China's 'religious freedom' is limited

A minister-at-large with Open Doors International says the Chinese government is trying to craft an image of religious tolerance leading up to the Summer Olympics-an event that likely has both positive and negative ramifications for Christians in that country.Last week, the director of China's Religious Affairs Bureau met with U.S. officials and spoke at Georgetown University. He said China's peaceful development depends upon its respect for human rights and religious beliefs. But Johnny Li, a native of China who came to Christ as a young adult and who recently returned from a trip to the communist nation, says the Chinese government is cracking down on underground churches, also known as "house churches."He also says the government restricts the movement of its citizens, which means those living in rural areas are finding it tougher to travel to large metropolitan areas. Nevertheless, Li does say the Chinese government is trying to improve its image regarding human rights."The whole world is looking at China-so China handles this very carefully and, in a way,is trying not to give a bad impression to the West," Li explains."And in fact, China has a lot of improvement compared with 10, 20 years ago, even five years ago. Religious freedom is much better now because China's government also tries to open up in different ways to allow Christians to have freedom."But according to Li, religious freedom does not carry the same meaning to communist officials as it does for Christians in America. In the U.S., he points out, "you can do a lot of things" under the definition of religious freedom-such as preach the gospel."But 'religious freedom' in different," he shares."You have religious freedom in the government church. You can evangelize, you can share the gospel, you can preach the gospel...but it has to be within the government church." However, he points out, those who practice Christianity in unregistered churches are breaking the law and are often arrested and persecuted by the communist government. According to the latest "World Watch List" of persecuted countries, released by Open Doors International, China moved up the list from last year-from No. 12 to No. 10.
As in the days of Noah....

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