Christianity in Xianjiang and in China at large.
by Nick Bishop
Xinjiang is an autonomous region of China which is home to the Uyghur people. If you think the UK is the most watched nation in the world with CCTV on every street corner, try being a Uyghur citizen. There are more police stations and electronic tracking devices including CCTV in this area of China than in any other place on earth, according to the Open Doors charity.
The population of Xinjiang is largely Muslim with a strong separatist nationalism which the Chinese government fears. The Chinese authorities worry that Al-Qaeda or Islamic State may exploit the differences between the Uyghur population and the Communist government. Hence this area of China is on total lockdown. Of course, this makes life difficult for the Uyghur people going about their daily lives.
Those who are suspected of not towing the party line are sent to what the Chinese authorities call, ‘re-education’ camps. Here they are made to sit in classes to teach them the error of their ways and once more be good Communists, in theory at least. Although many of the Uyghurs sent against their will are Muslims, many are also Christian. According to one churchman, people can be held in these re-education camps for many weeks, and some never return.
There are approximately 20 million Christians in China scattered throughout this huge nation. One could say it is good that the Communists tolerate Christianity, but only a type of Christianity that does not threaten their ideology.
Christians in Xinjiang face two dangers – one from the Muslim population and another from the Communist authorities. Many Christians in China are only allowed to attend state-approved churches, and they risk danger from the authorities as they prefer to attend underground churches in China. Christianity and religion in general, are only tolerated as long as it stays within government rules. Any deviation from the Communist toleration of faith makes one an enemy of the state with all the repercussions that can bring. Converting from Islam to Christianity is also a danger for people who accept Christ as their Lord and their Saviour. Like many majority Muslim populations, anyone who converts to another faith, in this instance Christianity, is regarded as an apostate. This often results in family, friends and the community turning their backs on converted Christians. Many of the underground churches that meet in secret, no doubt preach sermons decrying the injustice of the Communist system. These are the brave ones, not unlike those underground churches during the time of the Roman Empire. Christians have always been persecuted and probably always will be and it is they who are truly taking up their crosses and following the Lord.
Empires and powers come and go whether it be the Roman Empire or Communist China. One day Christians in China will see a better day, certainly in the physical or in the life beyond and like all Christians on this planet, when Jesus himself returns.
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