At a table at the Star Ferry pier in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, a group of people are handing out bags to visitors from mainland China. Written on the bag, in Chinese and English, are the words: “Jesus loves you”, and inside are texts in simplified Chinese from the Bible.
This is just one of many examples of the dramatic differences between Hong Kong and mainland China that is especially noticeable at Christmas.
Churches all over the city hold Christmas services, sing carols on the streets and make charity visits to the sick and elderly. Even the department stores are full of the sound of religious music.
Hong Kong has an estimated 870,000 Christians, of whom about 500,000 are Protestant.
The churches are actively engaged in all areas of society – running schools, hospitals, welfare institutions and publishing houses – and their members are active in politics and civil society.
They are an essential part of Hong Kong life.
What a different story just over the border.
In mainland China, the churches can only operate within the walls of their buildings; they can hold services and Bible classes and engage in social services, but only on their own premises.
They cannot run schools, hospitals, orphanages or welfare institutions.
The media is banned from reporting on their activities, good or bad, and there is no mention of religion in the school curriculum.
So, if you are not a believer yourself, you have no reason to know that Christianity exists in China.
This stems from the communist belief that religion is “subversive”, and Christianity is especially suspect as it came from the West and may be used by “foreign anti-China forces” to overthrow the government.
The Christians of Hong Kong are not indifferent to the situation for Christians on mainland China, rather many mainland pastors come to Hong Kong for training and to attend classes not available to them at home.
Many believers also go from Hong Kong to teach classes and assist their Christian brothers and sisters in the mainland.
However, in July, Reverend Philip Woo, leader of the Christian Church of Chinese Ministry, was ordered by officials of the State Administration of Religious Affairs in China to stop posting online messages calling on mainland Christians to come to Hong Kong for training.
Woo said Hong Kong churches had been told to check the identities of all worshippers and that mainlanders should not be allowed to take part in church services.
“We have organised activities for mainland Christians every year and, [until now] never had any problems,” he said.
The increasing intolerance from Beijing may be due to the rise in the number of mainland Christians, with current estimates suggesting that, by 2030, China will overtake the United States as the country in the world with the most Protestants.
- Give thanks for the freedom of the Church in Hong Kong, and their ministry to their fellow believers in mainland China. Pray that this freedom will continue without interference or pressure from the Chinese government.
- Pray for the Chinese Church as it continues to experience huge rates of growth. Pray for good resources for discipleship and training of new believers and leaders.
- Pray for protection for Christians in China and Hong Kong as the government is starting to increase pressure against them.
- Pray for the Chinese Government to see Christianity as something to be welcomed, not feared.
Philippians 4 vs 6: “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Source: http://www.persecution.org, http://www.ejinsight.com