A church in China's southern Hunan province is experiencing unrelenting harassment from Chinese authorities, as police continue to interrupt services, forcibly interrogate congregants, and vandalize church property.
Persecution watchdog International Christian Concern reports that the church pastor, Zhang Ganghua, recently signed a joint letter that called on authorities to stop persecuting churches, emphasizing their right to religious freedom.
Officials initially vandalized church property and later asked to meet with the church pastor, interrogating him on his beliefs and his part in signing the joint letter.
The authorities reportedly asked if the pastor still condoned the contents of the letter, stating that now was the opportunity to disown it. To this pastor Zhang replied, "I will not change my position."
In response, officials warned that if the pastors church does not join the Three Self Patriotic Movement, one of the official Christian organizations overseen and censored by the Chinese government, it will be considered illegal and banned.
Despite such harassment, the church plans to exercise their right to public worship stating it is "authorized by God in the Bible and granted by the [Chinese] Constitution to its citizens."
Since the official "Regulations on Religious Affairs" came into effect on February 1, 2018, Christians have experienced increased persecution at the hands of the Communist government. Authorities have demolished hundreds of Protestant churches, knocked crosses off steeples, evicted congregations, and imprisoned pastors.
The joint letter, signed by hundreds of pastors, denounces the government's efforts to restrict Christianity.
"We are a group of Chinese Christians, chosen by the Most High God to be His humble servants, serving as pastors for Christian churches throughout various towns and cities," the letter begins
"We believe and are obligated to teach the world that the one true and living Triune God is the Creator of the universe, of the world, and of all people. All men should worship God and not any man or thing. We believe and are obligated to teach the world that all men, from national leaders to beggars and prisoners, have sinned. They will die once and then be judged in righteousness. Apart from the grace and redemption of God, all men would eternally perish. We believe and are obligated to teach the world that the crucified and risen Jesus is the only Head of the global church, the sole Savior of all mankind, and the everlasting Ruler and supreme Judge of the universe. To all who repent and believe in Him, God will give eternal life and an eternal Kingdom."
The statement also makes four points addressing the Chinese government's continued crackdown on Christian churches.
Christian churches in China believe unconditionally that the Bible is the Word and Revelation of God.
Christian churches in China are eager and determined to walk the path of the cross of Christ and are more than willing to imitate the older generation of saints who suffered and were martyred for their faith.
Christian churches in China are willing to obey authorities in China whom God has appointed and to respect the government's authority to govern society and human conduct.
For this reason, we believe and are obligated to teach all believers that all true churches in China that belong to Christ must hold to the principle of the separation of church and state and must proclaim Christ as the sole head of the church.
In the statement, the pastors say they are prepared to bear all losses - "even the loss of our freedom and our lives," for the sake of the Gospel.
"But under no circumstances will we lead our churches to join a religious organization controlled by the government, to register with the religious administration department, or to accept any kind of affiliation," the pastors say. "We also will not accept any 'ban' or 'fine' imposed on our churches due to our faith."