China and the Olympics

As a kid I remember the years that America spent preparing for the Olympic Games. I remember the slogan "Proud sponsor of the (year) U. S. Olympic Games." I also remember watching the games on television and talking about favorite athletes with my friends in the church youth group.

The fact that I could go to church during that time was taken for granted. Christians in China aren't so fortunate, however.

In June 2008 Christian Solidarity Worldwide and China Aid published a report entitled "China: Persecution of Protestant Christians in the Approach to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games." Apparently, the Communist Chinese government is cleaning house before the Olympic Games by imprisoning undesirable people. Undesirables in China include Christians, especially targeted are leaders in the house churches that have revolutionized the Christian movement. The report says that 415 house church leaders were arrested in 2007.

There is no way to accurately measure how many Christians there are in China. Internal sources say that there are 130 million Christians. This number includes 20 million Catholics. Most of these Christians choose to worship in unregistered house churches because the churches sanctioned by the state are highly regulated. The price is high though. The report says that "those belonging to unregistered, and therefore illegal, groups can face many difficulties, including being harassed, humiliated, fined, tortured, imprisoned and subjected to forced labour. Physical assault has left Christians injured, hospitalized and disabled ... members of unregistered churches come under particular attack when they are accused of being part of a cult. As their faith is not recognized as belonging to an official religion, house churches can be classified as cults ... and be subjected to harsh penalties" (3).

Nice, huh? My question is, why is the U.S. still participating in the Olympics? The recent Chinese 'intervention' in Tibet and the continued persecution of Christians is only the latest in a long history of offenses by the government that brought us the massacre in Tiananmen Square in 1989. It is no secret that China is guilty of horrendous violations of human rights. Their policies will not change if we simply ignore them.

China isn't the only nation to persecute those who believe in Christ. Release International, the voice of the persecuted church, said that "according to the World Evangelical Alliance, over 200 million Christians in at least 60 countries are denied fundamental human rights solely because of their faith." Release International defines Christian persecution as "a situation where Christians are repetitively, persistently and systematically inflicted with grave or serious suffering or harm and deprived of (or significantly threatened with deprival of) their basic human rights because of a difference that comes from being a Christian that the persecutor will not tolerate." This is much more serious than what many American Christians call persecution, for example being made fun of or disagreed with.

Let's remember our brothers and sisters throughout the world in prayer with special attention to China as the Olympics draw near.


For information on the report: