• A conversation from prison with Christian bookstore owner Shi Weihan, who is suffering in pain while prison officials refuse to give him medicine for his diabetes. His bookstore was located near the Olympic Village. He was re-arrested four months ago. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reported recently that nearly 700 Protestant leaders who were not registered with the government have been arrested over the past year.
• An interview with Zhang Mingxuan, a prominent Beijing-based pastor and founder of the Chinese House Church Alliance, and his ailing wife Xie Fenglanto, who were located forcibly to Hebei Province’s Yanjiao Township after a week of harassment. According to Hong Kong’s The Sunday Post (July 20), the government was concerned that he might be a “destabilizing factor” during the Olympic Games.
• A feature piece on crackdowns on house churches. According to Mingxuan, 2008 has been the most difficult year in his 20 years as a Christian. “The crackdown on underground churches so far this year is much more intense than the past few years put together because of the Olympic Games.”
Recently, according to Baptist Press, the U.S. House of Representatives and President Bush signaled to China’s government that its violations of religious freedom and other basic human rights will not be forgotten during the Games. The House voted 419-1 in support of a resolution calling on China to end its human rights abuses before the Olympics. The House called on Bush to take specific steps before and during the Olympics to speak out about China’s poor human rights record.The House resolution was immediately criticized by the Chinese government, saying it was offered “by a handful of anti-China Congressmen….this action itself is blasphemy to the spirit of the Olympics…”But denying the freedom of religion to millions certainly is not in the Olympic spirit! The theme of the 2008 Olympics is “One World One Dream.” According to the Olympics Website that theme “fully reflects the essence and the universal values of the Olympic spirit – Unity, Friendship, Progress, Harmony, Participation and Dream.”But don’t millions of minorities in China, including Christians, dream of freedom to worship in peace without fear of arrest, harassment or intimidation? Of course they do.President Bush was in China for four days, starting on Thursday August 7. He dedicated a U.S. embassy in Beijing and attended a few Olympic events.But more importantly, he met with Chinese President Hu Jintao with some of the discussion focused on human rights issues. Please pray with me that President Bush can continue to prod President Jintao as he did during his visit to make some permanent, important strides in religious liberty. And that they are not just cosmetic to impress the foreign media during their scrutiny of China the next two weeks.President Bush also attended a state-sanctioned church on Sunday, August 10, in Beijing. But Mr. President, please don’t forget the house church Christians. They are the ones who are taking the brunt of the persecution and suffering. They should have the right to worship openly and freely. Most of the 60 to 80 million Christians in China are members of house churches.The No. 1 question is what will the landscape look like for Christians after the Games wind up August 24 – better or worse? Pray that the talks between the two presidents will improve the situation for all Christians in China – this year and for the long run.