Police Raid Meeting of Over 40 House Church Pastors in China; 3 Arrested, Others Interrogated

In April, about 100 Chinese special police and other security officers raided a building in China's northeastern Liaoning province where about 40 house church pastors were gathered for a "Unity in Christianity" event, according to persecution watchdog China Aid.

The authorities accused the pastors of "participating in illegal gatherings without government permission."

Three of the pastors were arrested and taken away while the rest were locked up in a room and interrogated for several hours.

The authorities accused the host of the event—Pastor Guo Pingxi from Kunming, Yunnan—of belonging to a foreign anti-China group.

One of the pastors who were interrogated told China Aid that the accusation against Pastor Guo was "ridiculous."

"We refuted that because Pastor Guo is Chinese, himself. How could he be part of a foreign anti-China group?" the unnamed pastor said.

He believes that the Chinese government is targeting Pastor Guo because he is an advocate for the unity of Chinese house churches.

China only allows the operation of churches legally registered with their local governments through the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement or the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

Underground or unregistered house churches are illegal in China and are often subjected to raids and other forms of intimidation by the authorities. Some local governments in China have shut down these unregistered churches.

Despite the continuing crackdown on "unofficial" churches, which a majority of believers belong to, China is ironically experiencing "one of the world's great spiritual revivals" that shows no signs of slowing down, according to Ian Johnson, the Pulitzer-prize winning author of "The Souls of China: The Return of Religion after Mao," in his op-ed piece for The Atlantic.

In an earlier CP report, Johnson was quoted as saying that China is seeing an "explosion of faith" that could turn the atheist country into the world's biggest Christian nation in less than 20 years.

The author revealed that the "religious revolution" is being driven by the country's underground churches—the continuing target of Chinese authorities.

China Aid backed up Johnson's assertion, saying in a 2016 report that Christianity indeed is growing at a dramatic rate in China despite the mounting cases of persecution.

China Aid revealed that a total of 20,000 Chinese Christians suffered religious persecution in 2015, but this only spurred the growth of churches.

"Despite the worsening situation of religious freedom in China in the last decade, China Aid sees great hope in the fast growth of the house church movement across China and firmly believes that God's love and justice will eventually cover the vast expanse of this nation," the report said.