Tuesday, June 3, 2008

China's Underground Christians

"They hung me up across an iron gate, then they yanked open the gate and my whole body lifted until my chest nearly split in two. I hung like that for four hours."

That is how Peter Xu Yongze, the founder of one of the largest religious movements in China, described his treatment during one of five jail sentences on account of his belief in Christianity.

Mr Xu, 61, is not the only Chinese Christian to suffer for his faith. Both Catholics and Protestants have long complained of persecution by the Communist authorities, and human rights groups claim the problem is getting worse.

This problem is getting the tip of the iceberg. In order to achieve their perfect communist utopia, Chinese authorities have been cracking down on religious groups, especially the Christians.

According to the Jubilee Campaign, an interdenominational lobby group, about 300 Christians are in detention in China at any one time, and that number is set to rise.

"China's new generation of leaders are trying to consolidate control of the country as it goes through rapid social and economic changes," said Wilfred Wong, a parliamentary officer for the Jubilee Campaign.

"The Communists feel threatened by any popular ideology which is different from their own," he said.

China's Christian population - especially those who refuse to worship in the tightly regulated state-registered churches - is seen as one such threat.

According to Mr Wong, the number of Christians in China has continued to rise, exacerbating this perceived threat and causing the authorities to clamp down still further on unregistered churches.

The perception that China's Christians have close links with the West adds to their plight, Mr Wong said.

Refugees in their own Country

This is a story of the many against the few. Of a protest against Muslims, in an overwhelmingly Muslim country.

This is the story of Indonesia's Ahmadiyah, and their fight for survival in the world's largest Muslim democracy. There are only a few hundred thousand Ahmadiyah in Indonesia, among 200m Muslims.

So why are they seen as such a threat?

It all goes back to one very simple but highly controversial question. "Is Muhammad the final prophet for each and every Muslim? "
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