China seizes Christians in Easter raid
Dozens of Chinese Christians were arrested on Sunday when police prevented an evangelical Protestant church from holding its Easter Sunday service, as the state continued its attack on protests against one-party rule.
Security forces clashed with followers of a growing underground Protestant movement that was blocked from moving into a new meeting hall near Beijing, leading to three weeks of confrontation with the communist authorities.
Worshippers from the Shouwang, or "watch tower", church were taken away in buses, some defiantly singing hymns. Church leaders had issued a "fire and brimstone" cry for the congregation to worship outside the building even if it meant arrest and prosecution.
Up to 500 members of the Protestant house church movement, unregistered assemblies of worshippers that the government bans to prevent the rise of opposition, have been detained in recent weeks. Yesterday's arrests were a continuation of the authorities' increase in repression of dissenters to stop any chance of a revolution such as those seen in North Africa and the Middle-East.
"Between 20 and 30 followers were taken away," said Pastor Jin by telephone from his home, where he has been under house arrest for the past two weeks.
Estimates put the number of underground Christians at 40 million, with some claiming there are as many as 80 million. Shouwang church was founded in a flat in 1993 but now has 1,500 members. It claims to have been blocked from taking possession of a £2.5 million building it bought in 2009.
Please remember to pray for these brave souls and all other Christians who suffer under persecution in so many parts of the world today.
Comfort can be found in the words of Jesus:
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven..." (Matthew 5:11-12)