The Olympics are going to be in China this year?
I want to reassure people that I haven’t been living under a rock lately. Yes, I knew that the Olympics will be in Beijing in August. It has been hard not to notice with the amount of attention it has drawn in the media recently.
It seems that China’s plan of a tour de force of public relations, showcasing modern China to the world, has hit some serious snags. The torch relay around the world is the longest in Olympic history, yet it has been marred by protesters in numerous countries, notably in the U.K. and France.
The timing didn’t help, as there was a crackdown in Tibet just prior to the start of the tour. This led to a lot of groups who have grievances against China protesting along the torch relay route, even to the point of trying to douse the flame.
I am not an expert in the Tibet issue, but it sure seems to me that China is continuing with long-standing behavior of suppressing the full cultural expression and freedom of the Tibetan people. A persecuted people like this reminds us that we do not live in a world where all enjoy the freedoms we have in America. I pray for true freedom for Tibet and that their culture will be allowed to flourish, and I support the protesters using the torch relay to highlight their cause.
Yet, I don’t want people to forget that the Tibetans are only one group that suffers persecution and discrimination in China. Another group that the regular media likes to showcase that suffers religious persecution is the Fulan Gong movement. Again, I don’t like to see people forbidden to practice what they believe, but there is a much larger group that feels the pressure and is mostly ignored by the media.
By many accounts, there are well over 100 million Christians in China. When the Maoist movement took over the country, there were only up to 1 million Christians. Obviously there has been a remarkable increase in the number of believers in a country that is still officially atheist. The majority of these Christians are subject to persecution for their beliefs, and live with the potential for harassment and harm all the time.
There is an officially government sanctioned Christian church, but it is also controlled by the government. Therefore there is a large underground church, groups that meet informally and have to take care in publicizing themselves so they do not become a target for the authorities. There are so many stories of leaders and believers being imprisoned and punished for walking out their faith, and these are likely just the tip of the iceberg.
As the Olympics approach, I am sure that more attention will be paid not only to China’s impressive history and culture, but to controversy on how the regime treats minorities, Tibet, and religious groups. Remember that even if Christians are left off of the official media reports, they probably account for the largest group to suffer under the Maoist leaders in Beijing. Keep them in prayer, and keep this story in mind for the propaganda that will be fed to the public come August. The brothers and sisters in Christ upholding the faith there deserve no less.
For more information, check out the impressive report from Operation World.