Many rural Christians in China face intense persecution, says a minister-at-large for Open Doors.
“China is changing rapidly, but if you really want to know China, you have to get away from the cities and main highways and travel along the dirt roads where you will see village after village with many strong Christians,” stated Johnny Li, who has traveled to more than 30 countries for Open Doors sharing the message of suffering Christians in China.
“Many things in Beijing or China look just the same on the outside as they look in the United States, but there is a lot of persecution in places hidden from view,” he added
Last year, during a visit to China, Li experienced this first hand when the Public Security Bureau (PSB) arrested 20 students gathered for an Open Doors training seminar. Although Li had left prior to the arrests, Open Doors later received reports that the PSB had surrounded the seminar building following the seminar’s conclusion.
According to Open Doors, all 20 students were hospitalized due to PSB brutality during the arrests. The PSB also confiscated their Bibles, hymnals, spiritual books, clothing, blankets, Gospel CDs, video CDs and mobile phones. Although the believers asked for the return of their Bibles, they were all burnt or destroyed.
The next morning, Li and the Open Doors team heard about the arrests and managed to ensure that all of the detainees were released, bar one who may be given a three-year prison camp sentence.
Li described how, following their release, the group encouraged each other and felt honored to suffer for Christ.
“I have seen how my Lord suffered and how my leaders have suffered for Christ, but I have never experienced it,” one young mother told Li. “Brother Johnny – this is grace. We can experience the cross.”
According to Open Doors, an estimated 200 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with another 200 to 400 million facing discrimination and alienation.
Earlier this year, Open Doors released its World Watch List of countries where Christians are most severely persecuted – on which China is ranked No. 9. Also, since 1999, China has been designated by the U.S. State Department as a "Country of Particular Concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act for particularly severe violations of religious freedom.