WASHINGTON, D.C. — National Public Radio reported today that Chinese Christian leaders are being forbidden to travel to an evangelical gathering in Cape Town, South Africa. The government claims the event and the activities of these Christians are a threat to state security. The actions of the Chinese government highlight the continuing persecution of Christians and other faith traditions around the world. The General Board of Church and Society calls for all United Methodists to stand up and speak out for Christians in China who are being prevented from leaving the country and/or practicing their faith.
The United Methodist Church has taken a strong stance to uphold religious freedom and protect individuals and faith communities from religious intolerance and discrimination. The separation of church and state is essential for “diversity of religious expressions and the freedom to worship God according to each person’s conscience.” (Para. 161. C) No government should have authority over the church and thus the actions by the Chinese government to restrict travel and intimidate Christians are an offense against the basic rights of all humanity.
We call upon the Chinese government to respect and uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief which states that “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have a religion or whatever belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.“ (Article 1)
The General Board of Church and Society calls upon members of The United Methodist Church to take the following actions:
- Pray. Offers prayers for those being persecuted by the Chinese government.
- Contact the U.S. State Department at 202-647-5291 and urge them to pressure the Chinese government to lift any and all restrictions on people of all faith traditions, including Christianity, to practice their faith according to their conscience.
- Build awareness. Tell people in your community and help build further awareness and support for religious freedom around the world.