Christian Ministries Disagree with Religious Watchdog Groups on Registering with China

Both Christian ministries and religious watchdog groups want religious freedom in China, but disagree on what registering means for Chinese Christians.
( [email protected] ) Nov 26, 2005 08:12 PM EST

Christians in China continue to be arrested for their faith, religious watchdog groups report, while Christian organizations that have devoted their ministries to China have a different tone for the way Christians should deal with the religious situation.

Luis Palau was criticized a few days ago by Chinese house church Christians for the comments he made in Beijing last week, comparing China with such nations as the U.S. and Argentina, his native country.

However, his comments are not alone. Werner Burklin, the founder of China Partner Ministries, an organization that works with the registered Christians in China, agrees with Luis Palau on registering with the government.

In a recent interview with The Gospel Post, posted a few days before President Bush and Palau visited China, Burklin said that when he was young "Christianity did not have the opportunity to spread rapidly."

Comparing that time to today, he added, "People are allowed to worship freely once they register with the authorities as all organizations have to do" and if they "abide by the rules and regulations set by [the government]" and if they "are willing to do that, then [they] are able to open up churches, build Bible schools, theological seminaries" and so forth.

However, in opposition, the China Aid Association commented on similar remarks, which were made by Palau, and said on Thurs., "we can't agree with [Palau's] overall assessment and prescription regarding the situations of the Chinese Church."

CAA, a U.S.-based NGO that monitors religious freedom of Chinese Christians have reported consistently on persecution made by the government. Their most recent report included an attempt by government officials to stop Christians from protesting to President Bush while he was in Beijing, by holding them in custody.

Another Christian watchdog group, Voice of the Martyrs, who works with the unregistered Christians in China said that registering with China means that the communist party controls and leads the worship service.

"The reality is, to register with the Chinese government, in most cases, means greatly compromising your beliefs and saying 'the communist party comes first, my faith in Christ comes second' and obviously as Christians that's not a compromise we should be willing to make," VOM's Todd Nettleton said.

Burklin, in the interview, said that there are restrictions that he does not support.

However, he said, "The Bible does say that we as Christians should be tracts," and "people should see or read us and follow the ways as we walk with the Lord," which "is far more powerful" when we are "living tracts."

President Bush's visit to China signaled to top Chinese officials that religious freedom is important for the nation, with similar echoing statements made by Christians who have long-awaited for China to open its doors to religious freedom.

Religious watchdog groups urge China to grant the rights to worship freely without restrictions, while on the other end, Christians such as Palau and Burklin remain "optimistic," and believe that China's effort to open its doors are "progressing."