From Paul Mozur and Ian Johnson, at The New York Times:

A secretive Chinese court sentenced one of the country’s best-known Christian voices and founder of one of its largest underground churches to nine years in prison for subversion of state power and illegal business operations, according to a government statement released on Monday.

Wang Yi, the pastor who founded Early Rain Covenant Church, was detained last December with more than 100 members of his congregation as part of a crackdown on churches, mosques and temples not registered with the state.

This revolting development is symbolic of a much larger wave of persecution against religions (not just Christianity) that are deemed threats to state power. In northwest China, authorities have detained around a million Uighur Muslims in “re-education camps.”

Most persecuted Christians around the globe will never be known to Western Christians, but Pastor Wang Yi happens to be an unusually prominent unregistered church leader, whose work garnered a visit to the Bush [43] White House in 2006. Perhaps most importantly, Wang Yi and the Early Rain Covenant Church were featured in Ian Johnson’s brilliant The Souls of China, arguably the most important book written on the modern growth of religion (again, not just Christianity) there.

What did Wang Yi do to attract the attention of Chinese authorities? Simply being the leader of an unregistered house church is likely not enough to land someone in jail (at least not yet). But Wang Yi and his church allegedly distributed publications and DVDs without government approval, and ran an unapproved school and seminary through the church. Moreover, as Mozur and Johnson write, “Wang had become known for taking high-profile positions on politically sensitive issues, including forced abortions and the massacre that crushed the Tiananmen Square democracy movement in 1989.” He also publicly criticized Xi Jinping, China’s increasingly authoritarian ruler.

Our churches will not know the name of every persecuted pastor in China, but we certainly should pray for Pastor Wang Yi, his church, and all those like him who are suffering today in China, the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, and elsewhere. In doing so, we obey the command of Hebrews 13:3, “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” By praying for Wang Yi, we also take a small step toward broadening our too-narrow American vision by remembering our beloved brothers and sisters in the global church.

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