Focus on Concerted Prayer in Olympics Year

General April 2, 2008

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 472

As noted in RLP 458 (12 Dec 2007), the plan of China's ruling
Communist Party (CCP) has been to use the 2008 Olympics to market
China to the world. To ensure 'subversive' elements or
'reactionary' forces do not spoil the show, the government has been
cracking down on all potential sources of embarrassing dissent.
Numerous 'subversives' -- including writers, human rights lawyers
and house-church leaders -- have been intimidated and imprisoned in
China's vast Mao-era 'laogai', a network of more than 1000 'reform-
through-labour' prison camps. However none of this has saved China
from embarrassment, for the intensive media focus is presenting
every disgruntled, repressed, persecuted or just plain rebellious
element with a window of opportunity through which they can exert
leverage over a government desperate to portray itself to the world
as modern, progressive and open for business.

The issues with Tibet and Xinjiang are complex. Decades of brutal
ethnic, religious and cultural repression have given rise to deep-
rooted mistrust and grievance. Most Tibetans (traditionally
Buddhists) and Uighurs in Xinjiang (traditionally Muslims) simply
want autonomy and the right to preserve their culture and freely
practise their religion in peace. However there are also violent
and separatist elements in those provinces: al-Qaeda-trained
jihadists and separatists amongst the Uighurs as well as violent,
racist separatists amongst the Tibetans. The most belligerent
elements are commonly driven more by self-serving megalomania and
hatred than any real concern for the people -- their agendas are
generally either short-sighted or perverse and their methods are
counterproductive. The threat to China from terrorism and violent
separatism is real and not fake, as the Western media frequently
claim. What is needed is real peace-making, real reform, real trust-
building, real grace and really wise leadership.

Whilst most of China's problems are self-made, modern China is
seeking a new path that will lead to 'harmonious society'. In
previous decades the CCP has promoted economic development as the
path, and now the CCP is learning the hard way that money is not
the key to harmony. For while people do desire development, their
hearts yearn for freedom, human rights and equity. Now things are
starting to change again. Over recent years some leading Chinese
economists have been equating religious liberty and specifically
the presence of churches with successful -- as distinct from
destructively corrupt and amoral -- capitalism. Senior CCP figures
have been appealing for greater academic and press freedoms, and
some are openly advocating religious liberty on the grounds that
religion is imperative for 'harmonious society'. In early March,
China's top political advisor, Jia Qinglin, gave a keynote speech
in which he promoted religious freedom and acknowledged that
religious leaders could play a 'positive role in promoting social
harmony' and 'social development'.

China's house-churches have long been repressed and cruelly
persecuted, yet they are not separatist nor hateful and violent. In
fact the Chinese Church is passionately patriotic, keen to
demonstrate grace and desiring only to be a blessing to the nation,
even to the present government. House-church Christians commonly
meet before dawn to pray blessings upon China. There is now a
growing current of hope that 2008 may prove to be pivotal and the
CCP awaken to the reality of the church actually being not part of
the problem but integral to the solution.

Meeting recently in Zurich, religious liberty bodies issued a call
for the worldwide Christian community to make China a focus for
concerted prayer during this Summer Olympics year. For a press
release regarding this initiative, see
<
http://www.worldevangelicals.org/news/view.htm?id=1741 > (Religious
Liberty Organizations Call for Global Prayer for China) or
<
http://chinaaid.org/2008/03/28/zurich-statement-on-the-church-in >.

PLEASE PRAY:

* for God, who is sovereign over all 'kings', to use the Beijing
Olympics for his purposes. 'Many are the plans in the mind of a
man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.'
(Proverbs 19:21 ESV)

* for the Church in China to be filled with the Spirit of grace and
love to advance Christian unity and sacrificial love for their
country, and be blessed with divine wisdom and courage to advance
powerful, godly witness and servant-leadership.

* that all who have been unjustly imprisoned for their beliefs and
peaceful expressions will be released; may the Mao-era laogai be
exposed and this 'iron-curtain' removed. May these labour-camps
be transformed into legitimate industries, removing one of
China's most shameful stains and instruments of persecution.

* for religious liberty to become a reality in China so the church
that Christ has long been building may fully manifest her faith
and be a blessing to the nation and the whole world.

~~~~

SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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FOCUS ON CONCERTED PRAYER FOR CHINA IN OLYMPICS YEAR

China's ruling Communist Party has long been planning to use the
Beijing Olympics to market China to the world. In Chinese folk lore
the number 8 is the luckiest number and its character rhymes with
the Chinese character for wealth. So the games are scheduled to
open on 8-8-08 at 8.08pm. While China struggles to contain internal
strife and deflect criticism, our prayer for China is not for luck
or wealth, but that God in his generous and gracious mercy and
providence will make 2008 the year the Chinese government awakens
to the reality of the church being not one of its problems but
integral to the solution. In solidarity with the Chinese Church,
religious liberty groups have jointly called for global concerted
prayer for China leading up to the Olympics, that 2008 might be a
year of great spiritual blessing for the Chinese Church and for
China.

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The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this
RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray
specifically and regularly for religious liberty
issues, and in particular to uphold the Church
where it is suffering persecution.

RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.