Sunday 14 January 2018

Chinese authorities Dynamite Christian Megachurch

Chinese Authorities Blow up Christian Megachurch with Dynamite

The Golden Lampstand Church in 2009

ASIA: Chinese authorities have demolished a well-known Christian megachurch, inflaming long-standing tensions between religious groups and the Communist Party.

Witnesses and overseas activists said the paramilitary People's Armed Police used dynamite and excavators to destroy the Golden Lampstand Church, which has a congregation of more than 50,000, in the city of Linfen in Shaanxi province.

ChinaAid, a US-based Christian advocacy group, said local authorities planted explosives in an underground worship hall to demolish the structure following, developed with nearly $2.6m in contributions from local worshippers in one of China's poorest regions.

The church had faced "repeated persecution" by the Chinese government, said ChinaAid. Hundreds of police and hired thugs smashed the building and seized Bibles in an earlier crackdown in 2009 that ended with the arrest of church leaders.

Those church leaders received prison sentences of up to seven years for charges of illegally occupying farmland and disturbing traffic order, reported by state media.

The Golden Lampstand Church in Shanxi Province was destroyed this week by paramilitary police officers

There are approximately 60 million Christians in China, the majority of whom worship in independent congregations such as the Golden Lampstand. Many millions of Christians, Buddhists and Muslims also worship in state-sanctioned assemblies.

However, the surging rise in popularity of non-state-approved churches has raised the ire of authorities, cautious of any threats to the officially atheist Communist Party's strict political and social control.

The video below shows the destruction of the Golden lampstand Church in Shanxi Province this week by Chinese paramilitary police officers.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed under China's constitution, so local authorities in many cases are considered using technicalities to attack unregistered churches. Charges of land or building violations and disturbing the peace include the most common.

The state-run Global Times newspaper reported the official basis for the destruction was the structure did not hold the required permits.

"A Christian offered his farmland to a local Christian association so they privately built a church using the cover of building a warehouse," a government department official was quoted as saying.

Religious groups must register with local religious affairs authorities under Chinese law, the report said, adding the church was illegally constructed nearly about ten years ago in violation of building codes.

Pictures made available by ChinaAid revealed the church's steeple and cross toppled in a large pile of rubble.

The authorities used dynamite and heavy machinery to raze the Protestant megachurch.

“The repeated persecution of Golden Lampstand Church demonstrates that the Chinese government has no respect for religious freedom or human rights,” said ChinaAid president and founder Bob Fu.

He added: “ChinaAid calls on the international community to openly condemn the bombing of this church building and urge the Chinese government to fairly compensate the Christians who paid for it and immediately cease these alarming demolitions of churches.”

A pastor at a nearby church, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he saw large numbers of paramilitary police on Tuesday surrounding the area around the church, which was being taken apart by heavy machinery. He later heard a loud explosion.

The Golden Lampstand Church was built by husband and wife evangelists Wang Xiaoguang and Yang Rongli as a permanent home for their followers.

The couple had been preaching around Linfen since 1992, establishing congregations in improvised spaces such as factory dormitories and greenhouses.

While authorities did not block the church's construction, they later cracked down on it, and the couple and other church leaders were sent to prison.

ChinaAid said authorities also demolished a Catholic church in Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province, on 27 December. Officials smashed crosses and confiscated statues, the Eucharistic altar, and other religious artefacts as they demolished the building with heavy machinery, the organisation said.

The demolition prompted more 100 church members to protest in front of government offices this week.

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