Christians form human shield around church in ‘China’s Jerusalem’ after demolition threat

Photo credit www.telegraph.co.uk

Christians have flocked to defend a church in eastern China after Communist Party officials claimed it was an „illegal construction” and announced plans to demolish it.

Thousands of Chinese Christians have mounted an extraordinary, round-the-clock defence of a church in a city known as the ‘Jerusalem of the East’ after Communist Party officials threatened to bulldoze their place of worship.

In an episode that underlines the fierce and long-standing friction between China’s officially atheist Communist Party and its rapidly growing Christian congregation, Bible-carrying believers this week flocked to the Sanjiang church in Wenzhou hoping to protect it from the bulldozers.

Their 24-hour guard began earlier this week when a demolition notice was plastered onto the newly-constructed church which worshippers say cost around 30 million yuan (£2.91 million) and almost six years to build.

Officials claimed the church had been built illegally and used red paint to daub the words: „Demolish” and „Illegal construction” onto its towering facade.

The threat triggered a furious reaction in Wenzhou, a booming port city known for its vibrant Christian community, said to be China’s largest.

Hundreds of people, including elderly and in some cases disabled women, have now occupied the church to prevent demolition teams moving in.

„There are bad people out there trying to damage our church so we must defend it,” said Li Jingliu, a 56-year-old former factory worker who has been sleeping in one of its back offices since Wednesday.

„I’ve come here today to show my support. A church is a sacred place and we are all brothers and sisters.” said Jin Yufu, 55, from the nearby community of Wenling. „Christianity has made a big contribution to society in many ways. Thanks to Church we don’t smoke, gamble or drink. Christians are good people.”

Wenzhou, a wealthy coastal city around 230 miles south of Shanghai in Zhejiang province, has around seven million residents. Local Christians claim as many as 15 per cent of them are church goers, the majority Protestant.

Parishioners believe their church was targeted after Xia Baolong, the provincial Party chief, visited the region and was unimpressed by the prominence of a church built to house thousands of worshippers.

„His behaviour is illegal. He has abused his power. The construction of the church is not against the law,” said Wang Jianfeng, a 47-year-old man from a nearby congregation who was among hundreds of people gathered on the steps outside on Friday in a show of force.

Read the entire story (there’s much more) here – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china

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