Today in North Texas, hundreds of thousands of Christians will go to church. The police will not pull them over and take them into custody to prevent them from worshiping as they choose. This is America.
It's different in China. As of this writing, Hua Huiqi is living underground somewhere in the country. Mr. Hua, a Beijing house church pastor who has endured intense harassment from the communist government, was arrested on his way to a Protestant service attended by visiting President Bush and Dallas Theological Seminary President Mark Bailey. The Chinese Christian activist escaped from his police guards and went into hiding.
After the worship service, Mr. Bush, who earlier angered the Chinese government by criticizing its human rights record, commendably stood on the church steps and rebuked authorities, saying, "No state, man or woman should fear the influence of loving religion."
But fear it the communists do. As The Dallas Morning News' Jim Landers reports, Christianity is booming in China, in part because the social and economic upheavals the billion-strong nation is living through are leaving many searching for deeper spiritual meaning.
The communist leadership, though, sees religion as a threat. Believers who worship in government-sanctioned churches are generally left alone. Christians and followers of other religions who refuse to accept the government yoke are considered outlaws.
According to the U.S. State Department's 2007 Human Rights report, China is guilty of "serious human rights abuses," including violent suppression of unauthorized religious practices. A 2006 United Nations investigation found widespread government torture in China, with particular abuse inflicted on house church worshipers, Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims and members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement.
The Chinese government insists that there is no religious persecution in China. It's a lie, and, given the intense persecution of believers, it's an especially wicked one. China has made phenomenal leaps forward in its development over the past two decades. That's to be admired.
But China will not obtain, nor will it deserve, the respect it craves until citizens like Hua Huiqi can come out of the shadows.