For five consecutive Sundays, Shouwang Church members in Beijing have been prevented from assembling and conducting their Sunday worship in a public location. Since they were evicted from their last rented premises in March, members who managed to “show-up” at the designated area have either been detained and had their particulars recorded, or prevented from leaving their homes. In addition, an increasing number of families have been asked to vacate their personal residences by their landlords under pressure from the authorities, and several working for state corporations have reportedly been terminated.
Shouwang, which means "to keep watch," has had several run-ins with the government over the last two and half years. In 2008, police raided one of its services, accusing it of illegal gathering. In 2009, it was evicted from its rented premises, and in defiance church members met illegally in a local park. Then last March, government officials pressured the church’s landlord to evict them again from their place of worship. At the same time, officials also blocked the congregation from moving into a 5,000-square-foot office space the church had bought for over 4 million USD.
In a show of unity dozens of house churches have decided to stand with them. This is a first in 60 years where the house church clergy has decided to petition China's legislature in hopes of guaranteeing freedom of religion and to resolve the church-state conflict with Shouwang.
Today, the 1,000-strong congregation of Shouwang - technically an illegal church because it is not approved by the state - has been trying to hold its Sunday services at a public plaza. Although we cannot physically join our brothers and sisters this next Sunday as they attempt to gather to worship…we instead can stand united with them in prayer.
Father, we pray that those in authority in Beijing would be granted God’s wisdom in how to resolve the conflict situation that has attracted international attention. We ask for Your guidance, grace, strength, and wisdom to be upon Shouwang’s leaders and members as they persevere through this trial. May those who have lost homes and jobs experience Your provision. We also pray for the house churches that are united behind Shouwang to also experience Your grace as they face possible repercussions for their support. And lastly, we pray for a special outpouring and move of Your Spirit upon the Church in Chine during this time.
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