Less than a month from now, the 2008 Olympic Games will take place in Beijing. The Olympics have been front-page news this time around—and not because people are more interested than ever before in swimming, gymnastics, or pole-vaulting. From the moment Beijing was awarded the games, angry protests have come from all over the world.
The reason is China's abysmal human-rights record. Political dissent there can be fatal. And we all know about the crackdown in Tibet, which dominated headlines last spring. But somehow lost in the litany of abuses is the systematic persecution of Christians in China.
I am not complaining that those stories should not get coverage; they are all legitimate abuses that need the world's attention. But we Christians cannot permit the world to turn a blind eye to the persecution endured by Chinese Christians. The Rutherford Institute claims that 50 to 100 million members of the house church movement are coming under increasing pressure as the Olympics approach. Two incidents should be enough to paint a chilling picture.
In April 2007, according to John Whitehead, one Chinese Christian, Liu Huiwen, "was arrested for distributing 'Christian literature' to Muslims in the Gansu province. Huiwen was reportedly severely beaten . . . and sentenced to 18 months in prison."
For printing Christian literature, Pastor Cai Zhuohua was tortured and imprisoned "in a cold and cramped cell with 27 other prisoners and forced to make soccer balls for 10-12 hours a day for the Olympic Games."
These are not isolated instances, but part of an overall effort to squelch the house church movement. Freedom House reports instances in which the "buildings where unregistered congregations hold services have been demolished" by the government.
Representative Frank Wolf (R-Va.) is one of the great fighters in Congress for human rights. He planned a visit with human-rights lawyers in Beijing recently, but it was blocked by Chinese authorities. And he has called on President Bush to boycott the opening Olympic ceremonies. I wish the president would.
When I was in the Soviet Union right after the fall of communism, I met with many dissidents who told me how encouraged they were when Reagan publicly repudiated the evil empire, and about how they were mistreated whenever Western diplomats legitimized the Soviet regime.
We can enjoy the thrill of watching the world's athletes compete in Beijing. But we cannot forget that behind the façade of peace and prosperity created by the Chinese government, there exists the daily reality of fear and oppression experienced by millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We have collected materials on our website to help you inform your friends, neighbors, and church about what is really going on in China. Visit www.BreakPoint.org, and you will find information about prayer campaigns, petitions, sponsoring boycotts, and more. And keep checking our blog, The Point, for the latest news.
Even more than rooting for our athletes this year, we need to be rooting for the triumph of the oppressed over the tyranny that wants to silence them.