We have seen with great joy how in recent months God has continued to use Chinese missionaries all throughout the 10/40 window. However, things in China are changing fast. And BtJ’s work is facing major challenges as president Xi’s anti-Christian policies are being implemented more widely and consistently.
Although it was quite clear from the start of president Xi’s rule that he was no friend of the church, few had forseen how quickly and severely he would limit the relative freedom the church had enjoyed in the past decades. It is estimated that in 2017, about 3700 Christians were arrested in China. In 2018 that had increased to a whopping 100 000 or more. And according to our own estimates based on reports we get from inside China, in the first half of 2019 alone the 100 000 mark was passed.
It is especially surprising to see that many of the churches that have been closed, ransacked or demolished were government registered three-self churches. That means it is not just the underground church which has been targeted. The three-self churches are even more vulnerable in some way, because they have operated under party leadership and so much is known about them. Also the large city based house churches which had been operating above ground have this problem. They are an easy prey and some of the more prominent ones have been closed.
One of the ways in which the churches are persecuted it by travel restrictions. Many church leaders are already no longer able to travel. They are banned from public transportation by road, rail, sea and air. If they own a car, they cannot use it, because facial recognition software in cameras on the roads will detect them. In some areas, Christians are no longer allowed to travel to other provinces and we get reports of believers who are stopped from leaving the country. This does of course interfere with the missionary activities of Chinese churches, both in unreached areas in China and across the 10/40 window.
Things change so quickly now, that it is not easy for churches to make long-term plans for mission. Communication is getting more difficult and dangerous. We ask you to pray for this situation. First of all for the people who are on the front lines and are personally affected. Those who are being detained, who face re-education, and their families who suffer from intimidation and restrictions. Prayer is also needed for the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, who have lost their churches. They are now forced to gather at odd times in very small numbers in homes, and are kept under close surveillance, both physically and digitally.
Lastly, we want to ask you to pray for the continuation of the wider Back to Jerusalem movement of which we are a small part. It is hard to predict how these developments will affect the mission work of the Chinese church. However, we believe that the proclamation of the gospel is not our project, but part of Gods redemptive plan for this world. Nothing will stop it. Pray that God will use these attacks to work out his good purposes and that he will continue to bless the work of our Chinese brothers and sisters.