A letter written by a house church member in China has condemned the Chinese government for its strict restrictions placed on religious communities, but says that his church are not afraid in the midst of a crackdown on Christianity.
Zhang Tan is a member of Huoshi church in Guiyang, Guizhou province, which has been targeted by Chinese authorities. The church has been given heavy fines, all gatherings have been banned, and church leaders have been detained.
Zhang was also formerly the director in charge of Christianity at the Guizhou Provincial Religious Affairs Bureau, and a long-term religious scholar. He condemned the decision to close his church down, noting that to shut down all house churches in China would mean closing the places of worship for "five or six million people".
Religious freedom protections are limited to those who worship within state-sanctioned religious bodies in China, of which the Protestant branch is the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). Zhang's church has refused to join the TSPM, however, because "we believe that the Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee is a political organisation and made many mistakes during past political movements, which it did not take the initiative to admit," he wrote in a letter translated by China Aid.
"With genuine faith, and as a Three-Self Church in the truest sense, we do not want to participate in political organisations, particularly a political organisation that committed many political mistakes and will not admit it, defiling the sanctity of the Lord's Church.
"Similarly, we also think that participation in the the Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee as the sole criterion for being accepted by government leadership has tarnished the government's righteousness."
Zhang noted that members of his church have adopted children with disabilities who had been abandoned by their birth parents. "Over the years, the project adopted out more than 1,600 abandoned infants, helped create more than 1,600 happy families and also saved the lives of more than 1,600 orphans," he said.
The church also runs the 'Home of Love', a where orphaned children receive love and care, as well as have their practical needs met, and a kindergarten for children with autism. He quoted a testimony given by a man involved in China's democracy movement in the late 20th century: "Through a true and living church, God is giving the Chinese community a new desire to rebuild a long-lost heart."
"Why was this church, which provided positive energy to the community, banned by authorities?" Zhang asked.
The Communist Party is believed to be becoming progressively more suspicious of the influence of Christianity, which is experiencing significant growth in the country. Up to 1,700 churches have been demolished or had their crosses removed in Zhejiang alone province, and a significant number of pastors and human rights lawyers have been arrested and imprisoned.
However, church leaders have pledged to "make the cross flourish throughout China," despite government interference, and Zhang echoed that sentiment in his letter.
"As a Christian and member of Huoshi Church, I would say that we do not fear," he said.
"We accept that God blesses us; we also accept that God allows suffering to happen."