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« on: March 26, 2005, 01:16:16 AM »

VOM Hopes Rice's China Visit Will Benefit Persecuted House Churches

by Allie Martin
March 24, 2005

(AgapePress) - An official with Voice of the Martyrs has mixed reactions to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent visit to an official church in China, a nation that has one of the worst records documented when it comes to human rights and religious freedom for Christians.

Todd Nettleton is with VOM, an organization that monitors Christian persecution worldwide and that supports and advocates for those who suffer as a result of such persecution. Upon learning that Condoleezza Rice attended a service in a registered state church in Beijing this past weekend, he expressed the hope that the head of the U.S. State Department was able to encourage the government officials to address some of the religious oppression that unregistered church members still undergo in China.

In particular, Nettleton hopes Ms. Rice encouraged the officials to allow the unregistered congregations or "house churches" greater freedoms. However, he wonders whether the restrictions that the government places on the official churches were apparent in the Secretary's visit.

"Hopefully, she got the full picture," the VOM spokesman says. "If she went to an official church, that means there were no kids there because people under 18 aren't allowed to attend. I hope that Condoleezza Rice said, 'Where's the Sunday school? I want to visit the children.' And [the government officials] would then be forced to say, 'Well, I'm sorry, but children under 18 aren't allowed to attend an official church.'"

Nettleton says the leaders in the Communist Chinese government should not view Christianity as a threat; but unfortunately that seems to be the persistent attitude. He notes that Chinese authorities often try to cover up their harsh treatment of the members and leaders of the underground house churches.

Nettleton wonders whether the U.S. stateswoman's visit to an official, registered church may have been part of a similar kind of cover up by the Chinese government. He says, "I hope that it wasn't simply kind of a PR stunt to say, 'Hey, look: we've got a church. It's wide open. You can come and visit.'"

If that was the case, Nettleton says he hopes Secretary Rice "asked some questions and got a true picture of what is being faced by the Christians there in China." However, he says it is too early to tell whether the American official's visit will result in any positive changes for the persecuted house-church Christians in the communist nation.
Allie Martin, a regular contributor to AgapePress, is a reporter for American Family Radio News, which can be heard online.

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