The Chinese national flag flies in front of St Joseph's Church, also known as Wangfujing Catholic
Police in northeast China raided a gathering of Christian villagers and arrested 200 participants for allegedly joining a church that refused to abide by a theological doctrine promoted by a state-sanctioned body, according to a report.
Some 150 police officers stormed the gathering in Xiaotuan, a village in Mudanjiang City of Heilongjiang province on Jan. 27 and arrested the Christian faithful, Bitter Winter, an online magazine covering religious freedom and human rights in China, reported on Feb. 5.
Those arrested were members of a house church that is part of the Sola Fide (Justification by Faith) network. Sola Fide, Latin for “faith only” is a Christian theological doctrine taught by Martin Luther, a German theologian and reformer who started the Reformation Movement in the 16th century.
Luther argued that the righteousness from God consists not in recognition of anything we have done but in a declarative and creative act of God, according to the Canada-based Gospel Coalition. This doctrine is shared by most Protestant churches.
However, in China, the state-controlled Three-Self Church, which oversees the affairs of Protestant Churches, contests the doctrine and replaces it with “justification by love.”
Hundreds of local Christians and from faraway places have been joining the gathering in Xiaotuan every month, Bitter Winter reported.
"We have never seen so many police officers"
Before the latest gathering, locals spotted “a suspicious car” parked nearby, which came very early in the morning and left late at night.
Following the raid, the arrested Christians were packed in three large buses and some in cars before being driven away, the report said citing local sources.
“Even when they arrest criminals, we have never seen so many police officers,” a villager reportedly said.
The whereabouts of the detained Christians remain unknown.
Since Xi Jinping became China’s president in 2013, religious groups, especially those unregistered with state-run bodies, have endured a higher level of persecution, rights groups say.
The crackdown on religions intensified after 2018 when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) adopted new regulations on religious affairs, which require all religious groups and their members to register with the government and forbid all activities without prior permission.
Despite China’s constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion or belief, the officially atheist state is ranked among the world’s worst offenders of religious freedom by rights groups.