The Chinese government arrested more than 100 Christians more than a week ago, raiding homes overnight to crack down on religious organizations that don't submit to government control.
Among those arrested was Wang Yi, the pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church. The day before, Wang had criticized the Chinese government on social media for targeting religious groups.
Last week, his church released a letter Wang wrote, which he instructed to be published if he was detained for more than 48 hours, according to China Partnership.
The letter, and the perils Chinese Christians face, offer a chilling look into what can happen in countries that don't enjoy the freedoms and rights some take for granted in the United States. It also gives an example of what it looks like to risk everything to stay true to one's beliefs.
In the letter, Wang strongly condemns the actions of the Chinese government, and states his intention to continue pursuing his mission of spreading the gospel in China, regardless of what authorities may say or do. Here's an excerpt:
"On the basis of the teachings of the Bible and the mission of the gospel, I respect the authorities God has established in China. For God deposes kings and raises up kings. This is why I submit to the historical and institutional arrangements of God in China.
As a pastor of a Christian church, I have my own understanding and views, based on the Bible, about what righteous order and good government is. At the same time, I am filled with anger and disgust at the persecution of the church by this Communist regime, at the wickedness of their depriving people of the freedoms of religion and of conscience. But changing social and political institutions is not the mission I have been called to, and it is not the goal for which God has given his people the gospel.
For all hideous realities, unrighteous politics, and arbitrary laws manifest the cross of Jesus Christ, the only means by which every Chinese person must be saved. They also manifest the fact that true hope and a perfect society will never be found in transformation of any earthly institution or culture but only in our sins being freely forgiven by Christ and in the hope of eternal life."
Wang wrote to ensure that his protest and imprisonment would not be misinterpreted as a political or social justice effort — his faith is the only motivator for what he's doing and submitting himself to.
"But this does not mean that my personal disobedience and the disobedience of the church is in any sense 'fighting for rights' or political activism in the form of civil disobedience, because I do not have the intention of changing any institutions or laws of China. As a pastor, the only thing I care about is the disruption of man's sinful nature by this faithful disobedience and the testimony it bears for the cross of Christ."
Wang knew his public resistance of the government's religious oppression could land him in prison; he wrote this letter on Sept. 21 in anticipation of his current circumstances. You can read the entire letter here.
Chinese persecution of religious organizations has gotten worse in recent years, as the Chinese Communist Party attempts to control all aspects of citizens' lives.
"Under President Xi, the government has further tightened control over Christianity in its broad efforts to 'Sinicize' religion or 'adopt Chinese characteristics'—in other words, to ensure that religious groups support the government and the Communist Party," a statement from Human Rights Watch said, according to CNN.