The major earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25, continuing throughout May with more than 300 aftershocks, did overwhelming damage. It killed nearly 90,000 Nepalis and destroyed some 500,000 structures. Nepal’s Christians—less than 2 percent of the population—are gaining respect as they selflessly provide aid to their mostly Hindu neighbors, especially in this mountainous country’s rural areas.
Nepal’s governance has been hobbled for the last 20 years. From 1996 to 2005 a civil war raged between the ruling monarchy and Maoist rebels, with some 17,000 fatalities. The conflict ended in a draw, with the monarchy abolished in 2008 and an assembly elected to frame a new constitution. It failed to agree on the shape of a new government. A second Constituent Assembly, elected in 2013, also remained stymied.
But after the quake calamity, the four major political parties realized they would be punished by the electorate if they stood in the way of reconstruction. On June 8 they forged a pact outlining a federal parliamentary system based on eight provinces yet to be mapped and named!
This compromise clears the way for the election of village, municipal and district government bodies, which have been functioning without elected representatives for more than a decade.
For at least two years, China’s coastal Zhejiang Province, south of Shanghai, has been subjected to a three-rectifications-and-one-demolition policy. Authorities have knocked down more than 450 crosses from official Protestant “Three-self” churches, which are registered and consider themselves loyal to the Chinese state.
The authorities have also demolished prominent sanctuaries, including the $5 million Sanjiang Church in the city of Wenzhou just as it was completing construction. Wenzhou is known as “China’s Jerusalem” for its 1.2 million evangelicals in a population of 9 million. More recently, on June 8, government-dispatched bulldozers and backhoes demolished Yanxie Church called in the city of Wenling.
Informed observers say that Beijing is concerned about the growth of evangelical Christianity in China, which is officially atheist. Estimates run between 50 and 100 million Protestants in a country where party members number 70 million. Congregations in Zhejiang have been infiltrated in an attempt to discover party members and their families who worship. In the Communist party-state, being both Christian and a party member is not allowed.
One result has been an unprecedented resistance, with congregants persistently replacing crosses that have been knocked down—some of them assembled from makeshift raw lumber—as often as three times in a single day.
“One effect of the new religious persecution in China,” reports Robert Marquardt, a staff writer for the Christian Science Monitor, “is that it is bringing the official and unofficial wings of the Protestant Church closer. For years, the two sides have often been clashing siblings: In essence, private house churchgoers saw the Three-Self churches as compromised by the party. Official churches often saw house churches as misbehaving cults.
“Yet now, as they share a common threat and as more young people take up Christianity who have little knowledge of the historical divide, the two wings are starting to converge, reinforcing a grass-roots movement that has already been under way for some time.
“Worshipers are being introduced to Christianity in official churches and then moving to house churches for a deeper experience of Bible study and preaching. In turn, house churches are becoming less secretive and are reaching out to influence the official churches.”
For their part, the authorities are seeking to make their attacks more subtle. Instead of tearing down crosses arbitrarily, they have issued a ban on all crosses atop churches through a new religious structures building code. The code stipulates that crosses be removed, reduced in size, and affixed to the side of the edifice in the same color as the building, rendering them hard to see.
The leadership of Chongyi Christian Church in Hangzhou—one of the largest mega-churches in China with more than 10,000 weekly attendees—openly protested the new policy on the church website. “To create new rules for all religious buildings,” it stated, “but in a way that only touches Protestants and Catholics is prejudicial and unjust.”
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