In this week’s round-up, Chinese authorities have increased the persecution of Christians, an Adventist university in Uganda narrows restrictions on women’s dress code, members of a Maryland Adventist church pray and sign petition asking Trump to end government shutdown, and the High Court of Zimbabwe has reversed the dismissal of an Adventist high school headmaster.
Chinese Authorities Increase Persecution of Christians. In July of this year, Chinese authorities launched a nation-wide campaign to stop the distribution of the Christian newspaper Spring Rain News and to confiscate all copies in circulation. Spring Rain News, a spiritual newspaper founded by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in October 2014, is published informally as an internal church publication. According to believers, the recent harassment by the authorities has led the church to stop distribution. Local sources suggest an even more concerning development: authorities are using subscriber lists of this publication to harass and arrest Christians in multiple provinces simply for subscribing to the newspaper.
The case of elderly Christian Liu Ailing (a pseudonym) of Weinan city in the northwestern province of Shaanxi illustrates this disturbing trend. In July, three plainclothes officers stormed into Liu’s home, claiming to be police officers from the municipal Public Security Bureau. Officers questioned the elderly woman about the subscription list and delivery operation of Spring Rain News and about her own belief in God. Only then did Liu realize that she had been targeted by police because she subscribed to the Christian newspaper. Many believers in other cities who subscribed to Spring Rain News reported being searched and interrogated by the police. Further investigation revealed that a Seventh-day Adventist pastor and three church elders, who were in charge of publishing Spring Rain News, were arrested in early July, and all of their property was confiscated. This was the second arrest for the pastor. Years before, he had been arrested and sentenced to seven years in prison.
According to the New York Times, in early December, the police shut down the Early Rain Covenant Church in the southwest city of Chengdu as part of what activists said is the most severe crackdown on Christianity in more than a decade. The police confiscated Bibles, shuttered a school and seminary run by the church, and detained Early Rain’s pastor on charges of “inciting subversion,” punishable in serious cases with at least five years in prison. On Christmas Eve, Baoluo Gu, 31, a rice seller, went to the only safe place to worship that he knew: a friend’s home, where he recited hymns and prayed for the two dozen Early Rain members who are in detention. Fearing that he and his friends might be arrested, Gu used encrypted chat apps to share information about surveillance and harassment by the police. “We will not forfeit our faith because of suppression by the authorities,” Gu said. As millions around the world gathered to celebrate Christmas, China is capping a year in which the government of President Xi Jinping has led an unrelenting campaign against unofficial churches in China which, by some estimates, serve as many as 30 million people. From Bitter Winter, “Christian Books Banned, Subscribers Arrested” and from Redlands Daily Facts, “China cracking down on Christian churches; faithful declare, ‘We will not forfeit our faith.’”
Bugema University Narrows Restrictions on Women’s Dress Code. Bugema University, a Seventh-day Adventist institution in Uganda, issued an official notice that places a ban on the use of jewelry, make-up, mini-skirts, sleeveless/open tops, colored nail varnish, and trousers by female students in the university. The University says this is its way of enforcing “moral culture” among students. The notice reads that no student would be allowed back into school next semester if she does not adhere to the instructions. Speaking on the ban, George Mupaghasi, the university dean of students, said: “No student should come back with the above mentioned next semester. Culprits will face university disciplinary committee for serious action.” From The African Exponent, “Ugandan University Bans Use of Make-Up, Jewellery, Trousers, Mini-skirts and Nail Polish.”
Maryland SDA Church Members Pray and Sign Petition Asking President Trump to End Government Shutdown. Members of Liberty Road Seventh-day Adventist Church in Baltimore County, Maryland, are praying and calling for action during the partial government shutdown. At a special service, some members of the congregation signed a written promise to contact President Trump and ask him to help end the government shutdown. They also prayed that Congress will come to an agreement. “Just think about the families that are being impacted by this shutdown,” said Rocky Twyman, an organizer. “We all know that most people are living from paycheck to paycheck.”
Linda Burris attends the church and is one of 800,000 federal workers currently not receiving a pay check. “It’s been touch and go,” explained Burris, who lives in Baltimore County. “I’m responsible for my household, but I also have some seniors in my family who I’m responsible for. If I don’t have a job, then they’re not able to get their medication or other things they need.” Burris told Fox45 she has already missed one paycheck and will likely have to go without another. “Pretty soon the impact will filter out to everyone else,” said Burris. “Even if you’re not a federal worker, it’s going to hurt everybody.” From Fox Baltimore, “Local church prays for end to partial government shutdown.”
Zimbabwe High Court Reverses Solusi Adventist High School Headmaster‘s Dismissal. The High Court in Zimbabwe has nullified a decision by the Seventh-day Adventist Church to fire the headmaster of Solusi Adventist High School for allegedly failing to run the school. The school is run by the SDA Church, however, it is one of the government-assisted schools with an “undefined” partnership between churches and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. A letter, Thamsanqa Ndlovu, SDA’s South Zimbabwe Conference education director, told headmaster Phanson Tshuma to vacate office and surrender all school property to his deputy in May this year. Aggrieved by the church’s decision to terminate his contract of employment, Tshuma through his lawyer Ephraim Ndlovu of Mabundu and Ndlovu Law Chambers, filed an urgent chamber application at the Bulawayo High Court, citing Ndlovu and Paul Mavima, SDA and Primary and Secondary Education Minister, as respondents. Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Maxwell Takuva ruled that Tshuma’s dismissal was unlawful and blocked Ndlovu from interfering with his duties. The judge said Tshuma, by virtue of being a civil servant, can only be dismissed or redeployed by the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education in consultation with the Public Service Commission. He said the SDA Church had no right to terminate his employment, arguing that its actions were in violation of the Education Act and the Public Service Commission. From Nehanda Radio, “Court vetoes SDA headmaster’s dismissal.”
Pam Dietrich taught English at Loma Linda Academy for 26 years and served there eight more years as the 7-12 librarian. She lives in Yucaipa, California.
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons
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