The Christian Post > U.S.|Sat, Jun. 04 2011 01:35 PM EDT
By Katherine T. Phan | Christian Post Reporter
Several Christian leaders from the U.S. have added their names to a petition calling on the Chinese government to stop its religious persecution against Shouwang Church, the church in Beijing that made headlines after authorities blocked its members from holding services on Easter.Dr. Bob Wenz, a member of the board of directors and former vice president for National Association of Evangelicals; Dr. Os Guinness, a Christian writer and social critic; and Brent McBurney, president and CEO of Advocates International, are among those who are standing in solidarity with Shouwang Church.
Joining with churches and individuals worldwide, they are calling “on the Chinese government to end the religious persecution of this church and its members and to uphold the right to freedom of religion guaranteed by the Chinese constitution.”
Shouwang Church is one of Beijing’s largest independent “house” or unregistered Protestant churches with over 1,000 members. On Easter Sunday, Chinese detained dozens of church members and placed at least 500 under house arrest when they tried to hold a worship service outside, according to China Aid Association. Government intervention had made it impossible for the church to secure an indoor meeting place. Shouwang has been evicted from several rented locations.
“All these governmental actions are direct violations of the human rights clauses of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and also violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which the Chinese government itself is a signatory,” the petition states.
“As members of this Body, we stand in solidarity with, pray for and suffer with Shouwang Church.”The petition has garnered over 1,200 signatures since its launch on May 10. As of June 4, a total of 894 people have signed the English petition and 257 have signed the Chinese petition.
Wenz added his name to the petition on Thursday.
Dr. Os Guinness offered some words of encouragement to Shouwang Church members upon signing the petition:
“As a fellow Christian, a longtime advocate of freedom of conscience and religious liberty, and someone proud and grateful to have been born in Henan, China, I would like to add my name to your worldwide appeal on behalf of religious liberty for Shouwang Church and all the religious believers in China. God be with you. Know that my prayers and blessings follow you,” he wrote.
Supporters of the Shouwang Church state in their petition that their appeal is free of “political agenda and free from any government involvement.”
“It is simply a voice of conscience, a call to respect human dignity and to recognize the inalienable rights accorded to every human being.”
The Pew Research Center estimates that there are 50 million to 70 million Christians who practice in unregistered religious gatherings or house churches. Other reports have estimated that the unregistered Christian population could be as high as 100 million.