A China house church united in prayer with Christians from the U.S. president’s hometown, a year before the 2008 Summer Olympics will be held in Beijing.
The intercessory prayer meeting was held in Beijing and Midland, TX, where President George W. Bush spent his childhood.
“Dear God, we pray for you! It is in 2008 that the Olympics games will be successfully held in Beijing, China,” said a Beijing house church pastor, this past Friday, from a youtube.com streaming video. “The whole nations are celebrating for it. It is also a testimony that the Chinese people are still standing erect in the cast of the world.”
The middle-aged man – who said the prayer meeting was organized by the Chinese Christianity Family Federation – could not be identified, despite many attempts to contact the original poster of the video.
In the background, men and women were seen holding children and singing hymns in a brightly-lit, but crowded room with bare walls.
“Our China has a long history, with more than 5,000-year civilization. Christianity was introduced into China in 1809,” the unidentified pastor said. “At the same time, the Chinese pastors experienced a tough time, in order to bring God's bliss for Chinese people.”
In Midland, TX, Chinese and Caucasian Christians prayed in solidarity with their Christian brethren in mainland China.
“The Chinese Christians are facing a lot of pressures. Of course, on one hand, they are persecuted -- that is an all and all,” said Bob Fu, president of the China Aid Association, which often reports on persecution of Christians in China.
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Fu could be seen holding hands in a prayer-circle, Sunday, with believers of European and Asian-descent in a video posted on youtube.com.
“On the other hand, in the history of Christianity in China there is a huge prejudice by the Communist Chinese,” the former house-church leader added. “They say, 'One less Christian, one less Chinese.' [Communists believe] Christianity is a foreign-related. The level of Christians is ‘running-dogs.’”
The former house church leader had escaped in 1996 with his wife, Heidi, after spending two months in prison for leading an unregistered Bible school in an abandoned factory in Beijing. Before his arrest by China’s secret police, Fu led about 30 Bible study students.
China’s estimated 16 million Christians are divided between state-controlled churches and independent underground house churches, which have not registered with the government.
The degree of government tolerance towards unregistered house church gatherings varies according to region. In some cases, regional officials have been known to tolerate large Christian meetings, while others cracked down on much smaller gatherings.
“Knowing there will be the unavoidable persecution by potential Chinese officials, the Chinese House Church believers felt led to render intercessory prayers for more Global Love and Peace, via launching continual mass media prayer networks for the Olympics event, as a cornerstone of reinforcing a united and true patriotic spirit,” Fu wrote in an press-release, Tuesday.
"We pray and believe in Faith that a successful and more harmonious Olympics in China can help stretch China toward far-sightedness responsibility and accountability, while rendering more worldwide humanitarian compassion in a freer and more freedom-embracing country,” Fu added.
Beijing has come under repeated fire by human rights and religious freedom group for intensifying crackdowns on social activists, religious leaders and dissidents.
In July, security forces raided a house church in the northwest Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang.
In the same month, Chinese police raided a children’s vacation Bible school in the Jiangsu Province, arresting the adult teachers and dismissing about 150 children.
Last week, the New York-based Human Rights Watch declared that Beijing was not making progress despite promising to improve human rights as part of its bid for the 2008 Summer Olympics.
[Editor's Correction: It was originally stated that Bob Fu's prayer meeting was held on Wednesday. It was later discovered that the meeting was held this past Sunday instead.]
[Editor's Note: The pastor in house church video was initially not identified. It has come to our knowledge, recently, that the pastor in the video was named Rev. Zhang Wen-Ying]