China prohibits Christians from attending service commemorating earthquake victims

Reuters/Kim Kyung-HoonBelievers take part in a weekend mass at an underground Catholic church in Tianjin November 10, 2013.

Chinese officials have reportedly asked members of Autumn Rain Blessing Church in Sichuan province not to attend an event to commemorate those who were killed in the earthquake in May 2008.

The church's pastor, Wang Yi, told China Aid in a letter that officials visited church members in an effort to prevent them from attending a special service that was supposed to take place on Saturday.

Wang recounted that "more than 100 government personnel" had visited the church and contacted more than 50 pastors and members after they prayed to God during a service to "bring large numbers of government staff and Communist Party members to believe in Him."

"Is this the result, telling us God has accepted our prayers?" Wang asked, according to China Aid. "The Communist government desperately wants to know one thing: if they threaten Christians and prevent them from gathering, will the number of people going to services significantly increase or decrease?"

The pastor ended the letter by asking God to help Chinese Christians who are facing harassment from the government.

"Please strengthen them so that they become strong with the grace of Jesus Christ. Oh, Lord, please help us see the abundant glory of the Father so that we can not be fearful or doubtful when we come face-to-face with God through our faith in Jesus Christ!" he wrote.

According to China Aid, Wang is facing interrogation for "picking quarrels and causing trouble." In September, the pastor was prevented from traveling to Hong Kong to attend a Christian training conference.

At the time, Wang reportedly asked authorities for a written explanation on why he was barred from attending the conference, but officials said they did not have any reasons in writing because the order came from top-level officials.

Some have suspected that Wang was prevented from attending the conference because he criticized the revisions to China's Regulations on Religious Affairs in an online article.

The pastor contended in the piece that the revisions were a blatant violation of religious rights enshrined in the Chinese Constitution. He suggested that he would continue to protest against the implementation of the revised regulation and question its legality.

In April this year, officials reportedly interrogated some members of Autumn Rain Blessing Church regarding its mission trips, as well as its missionary activities of students at Sichuan University.

The authorities also visited Wang's home and asked his wife, Jiang Rong, about the church's Sunday services. The encounter reportedly ended in a truce after Jiang asked officials to display their identification documents. 

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