Christmas, commerce, Christianity and China have come together in a strange twist of ironic fate. Church pastors who so boldly preach and defend the Gospel are being put into labor camps by China for their refusal to join state-sponsored churches. While China persecutes the preachers for their belief in Christ, they also cater to the world’s thirst for Christian goods. As a result, the pastors are made to assemble Christmas lights, promoting the religion that they were jailed for, yet China tolerates it for the sake of commerce.
A group called WorldServe is now bringing light to the plight of those imprisoned by the communistic government. On behalf of those jailed and their families, WorldServe is publicizing the stories of the imprisoned pastors, while gathering donations to support the families of those imprisoned.
A key video has helped bring an understanding to the sort of persecutions Christians face in China – often in the rural areas. The underground church has been under siege by the government. While persecution has become less widespread of late, the severity of each incident has hardly paled.
"The police pointed a gun at my head when I was praying, but I was not afraid," one man in the video said. "I continued to pray. And then they took me and 64 other Christians to the police station and beat us."
Men, like the ones making Christmas lights, often belong to underground churches that have rejected the government-backed Christian church. To be an abiding member of the state church, one is not allowed to preach the Resurrection, nor is one allowed to teach the Gospel to anybody less than 18 years of age –effectively limiting the power of the Gospel.
Tom Henry of WorldServe has said that assembling Christmas lights is one of the jobs that imprisoned pastors are made to do.
"[Guards] sit a box of wires, lights, glass, in front of them with no tools, in a concrete, stark concrete floor," Henry said. "They have to put this stuff together, using their hands. They're bloody. They're cut."
"We want to tell this story," Henry said, "so that when people look at the light on their Christmas tree, they remember to pray for China."