Freedom of Religion
Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance without government influence or intervention. It also includes the freedom to change one’s religion or belief.
Freedom of religion is considered by many people and most of the nations to be a fundamental human right. In a country with a state religion, freedom of religion is generally considered to mean that the government permits religious practices of other sects besides the state religion, and does not persecute believers in other faiths.
In its 2011 annual report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom designated fourteen nations as “countries of particular concern”. The commission chairman commented that there are nations whose conduct marks them as the world’s worst religious freedom violators and human rights abusers. The fourteen nations designated were Burma, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.
Other nations on the commission’s watchlist include Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Laos, Russia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Venezuela.
Freedom of religion in China is provided for in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China with an important caveat: the government protects what it calls “normal religious activity,” defined in practice as activities that take place within government-sanctioned religious organizations and registered places of worship.
China’s five officially sanctioned religious organizations are the Buddhist Association of China, Chinese Taoist Association, Islamic Association of China, Three-Self Patriotic Movement and Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. These groups are afforded a degree of protection, but are subject to restrictions and controls under the State Administration for Religious Affairs. Unregistered religious groups—including house churches, Falun Gong, Tibetan Buddhists, underground Catholics, and Uyghur Muslims—face varying degrees of harassment, including imprisonment, torture, and forced religious conversion.
In recent years, China has tightened regulations on religious freedom, intensifying punishments for unsanctioned activities and increasing its supervision of certain groups. It also tightened the already stringent controls on Muslim and Christian populations and included a ban on religious organisations accepting foreign donations.
The unregistered religious groups — which were already not allowed to set up places of worship — are now also prohibited from establishing schools. Not only the unapproved religious events will be fined heavily 300,000 yuan (C$57,000), but also those who provided the venue for such gatherings will be fined up to 200,000 yuan (C$38,000).
Praying for China
– Pastor Lydia Zhang (English Translation)
Loving Heavenly Father, your children come before you in one accord, pleading for the people who live in the land of China.
Firstly, we pray for the leaders of the country. As they guide the 1.3 billion people forward, may you send forth the Spirit of Truth to reveal to them that only you are God who created heaven and earth and the Lord of life. It is you who put them in these important positions, to be “public servants” for the people. If they submit to your will, you will accomplish far more than what they could have imagined. Your unending grace and blessings will always be upon them and your guidance, help, provision and protection will always be with them because truth, goodness and beauty all come from you.
Secondly, we pray for the people of China. May the true love of our Heavenly Father be abundantly pouring from heaven to cover the entire land and people in it. Allow them to freely receive your love and grace in each and every way, to accept the empowering gospel and to grow and bond in your love so that they become channel of love, blessings to others and healthy people to build a good society.
Lastly, we also pray for the churches in China. The one true God who is all-knowing, almighty and soul searching, may your saving hand be upon your church. Jesus Christ is the head of the church and the cornerstone. Is he ever directed by the hand of man? As we bow before you, help us understand and experience your power! Oh churches, raise up your hands and lift up your heads. Look upon Jesus Christ who saved you, loves you and protects you!
Heavenly Father, you want everyone to be saved, no one to perish. You sacrificed Your Son to save the children that belong to you and give them eternal life. Please raise up your children to pray to you, to follow you and to partner with you to spread the gospel until it reaches every corner of China.
In the victorious name of our Lord Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.
If you are interested in knowing more about RHCCC’s PEACE program in China or would like to participate in this ministry, please contact Pastor Lydia Zhang.