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We are a Christian Fellowship meeting in North London with a strong interest in teaching the Bible and understanding our time in

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A one world dream

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‘One World One Dream’ – the message the organisers of the Beijing Olympics wanted to send out to the world. On their official website it was stated that this ‘fully reflects the essence and the universal values of the Olympic spirit -- Unity, Friendship, Progress, Harmony, Participation and Dream. It expresses the common wishes of people all over the world, inspired by the Olympic ideals, to strive for a bright future of Mankind. In spite of the differences in colours, languages and races, we share the charm and joy of the Olympic Games, and together we seek for the ideal of Mankind for peace. We belong to the same world and we share the same aspirations and dreams. … It is our belief that peace and progress, harmonious development, living in amity, cooperation and mutual benefit, and enjoying a happy life are the common ideals of the people throughout the world.’

 

The problem is that a dream is not reality. Today most people in the world are easily deceived by dazzling displays with powerful images and seductive music which blind them to the reality which is often the very opposite of the projected dream. All over the world people were awed by the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. But was even the show a part of the unreal dream factory? The ‘dazzling chain of massive fireworks,’ turned out to be ‘mostly computer-generated.’ We heard a nine-year old girl singing an amazing solo, but a more beautiful girl (with a less perfect voice) stood in her place, mimed the words and received the applause of 91,000 spectators.

 

The reality is that up to a million people were made homeless in Beijing as houses were demolished to make way for the Olympics and also for apartments and offices for the new rich of China. For the most part those evicted from their homes were the poor who were given little or no compensation. So much for Communism. Workers on the construction sites were also mainly poor men from the villages. Many were victims of industrial accidents as a result of appalling safety conditions and received little or no compensation.

 

At the height of the Beijing Olympics a secret directive was issued heralding a nationwide campaign to crack down on four groups considered to be ‘unstable social elements’ by the Chinese authorities - house church leaders, petitioners, human rights defenders and political dissidents.

 

A number of Chinese House Church Pastors were forced to sign a written agreement that they would not participate in religious services while the Olympic Games were taking place in China. The document, drafted by Chinese Government Officials, specified that the House Churches in China ‘refrain from organizing and joining illegal gatherings and refrain from receiving donations, sermons and preaching from overseas religious organisations and groups that have a purpose.’ The document also prohibited the churches from gathering in their communities for more than 3 months while the Olympics were taking place and afterwards. Those who violated these rules they would be subject to the disciplinary actions of the Chinese Government.

 

There were many reports of government persecution of Christians in the run up to the Olympics. Examples include Bike Zhang, pastor and chairman of the Federation House Church, and his wife Xie Fenglan were forced from their home in Beijing on 6 July by Public Security Bureau officials. The couple found shelter at the home of a friend, but when PSB officials learned about it, they came to the friend’s house and again forced the couple to leave. Pastor Zhang and his wife were then taken for interrogation by the police. One source reports that, when asked why the couple was being expelled from Beijing, officials said: ‘Because Bike Zhang met the Americans, and destroyed the harmony of the Beijing Olympic Games.’

 

The world’s response to all this is to look the other way. There were a few muted protests about China’s occupation of Tibet but hardly a word in any news reports of the persecution of Christians in China. For the most part the world is prepared to overlook all this in pursuit of the dream of peace and harmony.

 

President Bush started his four-day visit to China by sending a mixed message of both praise for Chinese economic policy and admonishments to Chinese leaders to respect religious and political freedoms. House Church leaders were disappointed though that Bush attended a government controlled church thereby giving an endorsement of the Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). In a letter to the President they explained that the Chinese rulers have been consistently deceiving the outside world by presenting show cases of apparent Christian freedom to worship while covering up the persecution which is taking place.

 

The Three Self Patriotic Movement was set up by the Maoist regime in China in order to bring all ‘Christians’ into the same government-controlled fold. In the days of the Maoist regime independent churches were banned and Christians had to choose whether to conform to TSPM rules or risk imprisonment, torture and death. Even today TSPM pastors are expected to keep to restraints given by the Communists on what they can do and preach. Thus preaching should focus on the social rules and the social benefits of Christianity not on the hope of eternal life through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Preaching outside government monitored TSPM church buildings and evangelism (giving out tracts, preaching in the open air) are forbidden. Importing and printing Bibles and Christian literature without government permission is forbidden. Giving Bibles to children or teenagers is forbidden.

 

Despite all this it is clear that there is a true revival amongst Chinese Christians who are continuing to spread the faith and seeing huge numbers coming to Christ. Christians who belong to house churches considered illegal by the government willingly accept persecution and imprisonment for their faith. The Chinese authorities are completely mystified by the continuing increase of the house churches. They call them anti-revolutionary and try to stamp them out but the more they do the more the faith spreads. Christians do not hate the government and are praying for their leaders and those who suppress them. Their love for the Lord and thanksgiving even in the midst of great suffering is an inspiration to the whole world.

 

The Beijing Olympics represents the spirit of the world which has its brief moment of glory and then passes away and is forgotten as a dream. The true church in China is full of the Holy Spirit to glorify the Lord Jesus and is being prepared for an eternal reward. They know the truth of these words: ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice though now for a little while if need be you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith being more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire may be found to praise, honour and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love.’ 1 Peter 1.3-8.

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