The ambassador of China’s visit to Chinatown KL the other day would certainly have gotten the silent nod from Beijing. Such a sensitive move could not have been done without being given official green light.
In a follow-up development, China defended the action of His Excellency Huang Huikang – see ‘ “China does not interfere in other countries’ politics”: Foreign Ministry defends ambassador to Malaysia after “racism” comments ‘ (South China Morning Post, 28 Sept 2015).
Just as Ambassador Huang receives the tacit approval of China’s Foreign Ministry, so too the state government of Zhejiang has the tacit approval of Beijing in its crackdown on evangelists in this affluent China province with a prosperous Christian community.
BELOW: Map of Chinese Christians by percentage in the provinces
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Evangelistas freaking out Zhejiang
Cities along the coast are usually more cosmopolitan because they are exposed to the influence of foreign traders – think Los Angeles and New York compared to the American heartland and Bible Belt.
Zhejiang, whose port city Wenzhou is dubbed the “Jerusalem of the East”, has one of the largest evangelical Christian populations in China. Wenzhou has 13 percent or 1.2 million Christians out of a population of nine million.
The Zhejiang state government’s serial destruction of churches and campaign to remove crosses from their rooftops has been in the international news the last couple of years.
Below is a headline by UK top newspaper The Guardian typically reflective of the general situation:
Evangelistas freaking out Beijing
As a communist country, China is wary of religions. It suppresses the Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang and the Buddhists in Tibet. But China’s biggest fear by far is the Christian evangelists in its own densely populated and advanced coastal cities.
As recently as this week, China is continuing and intensifying its arrest of evangelical Christian activists in Zhejiang and several other Christian-saturated provinces amidst the visit of President Xi Jinping to Washington.
“There are now estimated to be as many as 100 million Christians in China, a reality the 85 million-member Communist party appears to find increasingly concerning,” says The Guardian in a Sept 4 report earlier this month.
Hence the politburo’s understandable grave worry.
Ironically (for Putrajaya), the United States envoy to China was blocked last month from meeting the evangelical Christian activists and lawyers acting for the many pastors who have been detained by the Chinese authorities.
Ahead of Xi Jinping’s call on the White House, the Christians even petitioned President Obama to cancel his counterpart’s state visit last week (Sept 24-25) for the reason of China’s alleged “human rights abuses”.
The Chinese police have also been increasingly taking harsher action against the evangelistas.
BELOW: Malaysia features in the Christian world map, centred in Jerusubang
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Creepy Christians not crawling but leaping in bounds
“Christianity is growing rapidly in China. Evangelicals, estimated at between 60 and 90 million, are now the largest single civil society group, and their profile is shifting from rural and elderly to young and urban,” reported the Christian Science Monitor.
Similarly, Christianity is growing rapidly in Malaysia. Evangelicals are now the most prominent single civil society group in Malaysia and they were the ones who drove Bersih 4.0. Their profile is young, urban, savvy. And they proliferate in the DAP.
This scenario is in keeping with the worldwide trend. According to the Pew Research Center, the global percentage of Christians in the Asia-Pacific region has tripled over the last century – see comparative pie charts below.
In 1910, Asia-Pacific had 27.5 million Christians. By 2010, Asia-Pacific had 285 million Christians – a more than ten-fold jump in absolute numbers.
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Who are the evangelistas?
Catholics are the old Christians. Evangelicals are the Kristian Baru.
Evangelicals are defined as Born Again Christians, i.e. those who convert into the religion like Hannah Yeoh at age 19 rather than being originally born in the faith.
Or the evangelicals may be lapsed Christians who momentously recover their faith and fervour in – speaking figuratively – a miraculous ‘rebirth’.
According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia (vol. 5, p.472), the origins of modern evangelicalism is often traced to Germany’s pious Lutherans as well as Methodism in England … think Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC).
Evangelicals are also described as those evangelize, i.e. spread the gospel (dakwah) such as the actively proselytizing lay preacher Hannah Yeoh.
Main objective of evangelistas is to compel change
Not all Christians are evangelistas. Those with an evangelical bent are a minority among Christians in many countries. However, they are the majority among Christians in some countries – Malaysia being one example.
Evangelicals are “one of the few such [fundamentalist] religious groups whose members are determined to have an impact on the society in which they live,” said a Gallup poll report cited by Wheaton College’s ISAE (Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals).
Christians are strongly evangelical in the United States, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia-Pacific. They are however not strongly evangelical in Europe.
Asian evangelicals are some 21 percent of the world Christian evangelical population, according to the Pew Forum in its 2011 global research report.
As an interesting side note, Indonesian Christians are almost identically “nine percent” (magic number!) of the country’s population. Indonesia has 8.8 percentage of its population that are Christian, and the current Governor of Jakarta is a Chinese Christian.
One day soon, the President of Indonesia will be a Chinese Christian.
Evangelistas freaking out India too
Academic Iain Buchanan – author of the book The Armies Of God: A Study In Militant Christianity – spoke to DNA, an English-language broadsheet daily in India (interview here), about how some of the powerful evangelical outfits operate in Asian target countries.
Buchanan said that Christian evangelism’s “local impact can be hugely destructive — precisely because of its ability to draw upon a vast global network of forces (including powerful secular ones), and its ability to penetrate and shape local forces, whether they be ethnic, religious, political, or social, according to alien priorities”.
Over the last decade, “Christian missionary activity has seen a massive spike” said a separate report titled ‘Evangelist modus operandi in India’.
As one example, it is claimed that Christian evangelism was promoted “in a big way” in Andhra Pradesh under the state’s late leader Y.S.R. Reddy.
“As a result, there has been a sea change in demographics in large parts of Andhra Pradesh” – says a research commissioned by India Facts which noted the “… very sophisticated methods to evangelise Hindus and broadly, non-Christians.”
See mapping of Christianity in India at top of page – Tamil Nadu and Kerala are two of the country’s most Christian states.
Public perception among the Hindu majority is that Christians are an “unpatriotic, communal force”, reported India’s national newspaper The Hindu – ‘Indian Christians must be faithful to Constitution: Justice Kurian’ (28 Sept 2015).
Fear of the cross must be taken seriously
China’s aversion to the crucifix is so acute that as of late July this year, crosses had been removed from one third of all the churches in Zhejiang province.
The sight of cranes and enforcement officers wielding hacksaws has come to characterize the government’s pilot programme for containment of the evangelistas.
China Christian Council complained to the international community how 1,200 crosses had been removed from Zhejiang churches over the past year-and-a-half alone – see the New York Times’ 10 Aug 2015 article.
The government countered that more than half of the nearly 4,000 churches in Zhejiang “lack a license to operate, including a property ownership certificate”, the Xinhua news agency reported (story link via Global Times).
Beijing’s concern over evangelical Christianity is not to be taken lightly. The Chinese communist leadership holds the mandate over 1,357,000,000 China nationals. When you rule over this humongous mass of humanity, your political decisions are not simply made ikut suka-suka.
It’s a big responsibility.
Look at the size of the Sanjiang cathedral-like church in Wenzhou – below – that was demolished in April last year.
ABOVE: Mega church comes tumbling down and is flattened
The rise and rise and rise of the evangelistas
China considers evangelical Christianity to be an existential threat.
Pundits view China president Xi Jinping as a hardliner when it comes to cracking down on religions that pose a danger to the political integrity of his country.
The Washington Post recently weighed in with an editorial titled ‘China’s anti-Christian crusade‘ (5 Sept 2015). Reminding readers that “China will have the world’s biggest Christian population by 2030”, the renowned paper said “the profusion of churches seems to have unnerved some Chinese authorities”.
In addition to taking the cross out from public view, unnerved Chinese authorities have, in many cases, further sent the wrecking ball to knock down entire church buildings. Such drastic action is certainly not undertaken for no rhyme or reason.
Umno the Parti Pahlawan knows no fear
The truth is that the “big, bad” government in China is afraid – very afraid – of the meek and mild Lamb of God. But nonetheless Beijing is strategizing to protect China’s “blue ocean” (sheeple ripe for conversion) as well as preserve the country’s national identity from the threat of evangelical Christianization.
China’s act in Zhejiang is deliberate as was her ambassador here’s walkabout in Petaling Street. Read Singapore-based Chinese Indonesian sinologist Leo Suryadinata’s appraisal of China’s evolved policy on huaren and the “new role” for overseas Chinese in The Straits Times (2 Sept 2015).
Yet despite the evident fear of evangelistas in China and India, most people in Malaysia are still oblivious to the clear and present danger.
Malaysia is another country where the proportion of the evangelicals among the larger Christian population is very high and in fact, among the highest in the world percentage-wise.
Author on the trend of militant Christianity, Iain Buchanan, estimates evangelicals to comprise close to two-thirds of the Christians in Malaysia.
This fearlessness on the part of the majority population stems from a colossal tidak apa attitude and ignorant naivety. Despite indications of how brutal the DAP regime can be – ask the thousands of stray dogs tortured to death in Penang – the Umno warrior caste remains clueless still.
BELOW: Jerusubang Weltanschauung