Two years after fleeing severe persecution in China, 60 members of a house church, including 30 children, have been living in a small rented house on an island off the southern tip of South Korea with little or no hope of returning to their homeland or getting asylum in the East Asian country.
The Chinese Christians, who are from the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church in China’s southern city of Shenzhen, and is considered illegal in China, fled to South Korea’s Jeju island in the fall of 2019 and have been struggling to earn a living while trying their best to meet the requirements of the asylum process, The Wall Street Journal reports.
South Korea reviewed about 12,000 refugee applications last year, but only 0.4% of them got approved, according to a refugee-rights center in Seoul, called Nancen.
Pan Yongguang, the pastor of the house church, which was founded in 2012, is a 43-year-old former doctor and told the Journal that the families from his church would like to resettle in the United States. Last month, he spoke to an American diplomat.
Pan, who was trained by pastors from a U.S.-based Reformed Presbyterian church, had been detained and questioned by authorities in China. A couple of church members who returned to China also faced retribution. Their homes were raided and their movements restricted.
Most of the 60 church members in South Korea are surviving by doing menial jobs. Some wanted to go back to China but Beijing had tightly secured its borders due to COVID-19.
According to reports, religious persecution in China intensified in 2020, with thousands of Christians affected by church closures and other human rights abuses.
The Christian families from Pan’s church also suspect that Chinese authorities are trying to find their whereabouts, as they have received some alarming phone calls.
Pastor Pan tells the members of his church that their suffering is part of God’s plan, and, “There’s no way back for us.”
Under the direction of President Xi Jinping, CCP officials are enforcing strict controls on religion, according to a report released in March by the U.S.-based persecution watchdog China Aid.
Christians in both official, state-run churches and house churches were ordered to fly the Chinese flag and sing patriotic songs in services, it said.
China is ranked as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians, according to Open Doors USA’s World Watch List.
The communist regime’s crackdown on religious freedom has also led the U.S. State Department to label it as a “country of particular concern” for “continuing to engage in particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”
In an earlier interview with The Christian Post, the then-U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was “certainly the case that the Chinese Communist Party [engages in] efforts to stamp out religious freedom every place that they find.”