Believers in China face an insecure future as local governments enforce legislation restricting religious freedom even more. On February 1, new laws were enacted in China givingthe government additional control over everyday religious activities. According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, provisions state:
Teaching that promotes the Communist Party must be propagated at religious gatherings.
Additional information reporting will be mandatory, including getting official permission for effectively every religious gathering.
Government officials have supervisory authority over leadership changes, major expenses, and construction events.
For many in China, this law has serious ramifications.
Local Implementation and the Church
Kurt Rovenstine, President of Bibles for China says, “I can’t speak specifically to the restrictions as they’re printed. But I do know two things: that there’s a bit of fear as to what and how it will be implemented.”
Often, provincial government officials decide how and to what extent they will implement national laws. This enforcement may vary by area. Some parts of the new law are also vague, leaving uncertainty about what it actually means for religious bodies. However, tensions are high as people wait to find out what changes are in store for their churches. Rovenstine continues, “I know that there [are] a lot of our folks that just are afraid that there’s this…slow creep of the government into the business of the Church [which] will be accelerated.”
Impact on Bibles for China
Instead of an occasional check-in, a Communist Party official is now present each day at the provincial offices of Bibles for China. This could potentially restrict their work, but for now, Bibles for China continues checking the accuracy of the Bibles from Amity Press and distributing God’s Word to those who need it.
Rovenstine states the situation is “definitely something we have our eyes on. And as we’ve said before, we’re keeping a close eye on the Scriptures as well that are being distributed to make sure that they continue to be the Word and the Word alone. That’s very important to us, obviously.” That work may become even harder. USCIRF notes, “The Chinese government is currently conducting an evaluation of religious texts—including the Bible and the Qur’an—and could amend passages deemed incompatible with ‘socialist values.’” Currently, the reviews and regulations have not changed the structure of Bibles for China. With their work all done through legal avenues, they have not felt the crackdown in the same way as others. So for now, they are waiting. “We haven’t experienced any difficulty in that. But…we will surely be monitoring that closely to see how those changes affect our ability to do what God’s called us to do.”
Pray for Chinese Christians
Rovenstine encourages believers to pray for Chinese Christians. He says that even while they struggle to worship freely, they are passionate about sharing God’s Word. They want to see it go to all the Earth. They want to be a part of God’s mission. Pray they would maintain this passion. Rovenstine adds, “Also, [pray] that they would grab ahold of the truth of Scripture that says God is going to build His Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against them. I’m sure it seems like the gates of Hell are advancing, but [pray for] that assurance that they will not prevail in these difficult times and they would be encouraged.”