By BosNewsLife Asia Service
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)– Devoted Christians in southern China were left with a pile of rubble Wednesday, April 30, after local authorities demolished their church building, Christians said.
Officials supervised the destruction of the Sanjiang Christian Church complex in Wenzhou city in Zhejiang province Monday, April 28, despite a previous agreement that the $4.8 million building would remain largely untouched, according to advocacy groups.
Chinese officials reportedly said the building of the state-approved church was demolished because it was much larger than permitted.
Local believers denied wrongdoing, calling the destruction an attack on the growing Christian population.
The congregation, which received permission to build their worship space on 20,000 square feet, instead built a church and annex on 100,000 square feet, officials said.
In late 2013, the Zhejiang Province Communist Party Secretary, Xia Baolong, toured the city and was reportedly offended by the large cross atop the church.
On April 3, authorities served a final notice that the church would be demolished after 15 days. However, on April 7, the church and the local authorities were finally able to reach a compromise. Although most of the building was to be saved, two levels of the seven-storey annex building were to be removed.
Despite the accord, wrecking crews removed four floors from the adjacent building causing the the entire building to collapse, leaving only a pile of rubble, witnesses said.
Church members were reportedly detained and interrogated. It was not immediately clear whether all had been released.
This was not an isolated incident, said Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC), a major advocacy group investigating the situation. “At least five other churches were also torn down or had their crosses removed at the end of April.”
VOMC said it had urged supporters that “despite the tremendous disappointment members of the Sanjiang congregation must be experiencing at this time, pray that they will continue to meet together for worship — realizing the importance and power of praising God in all things.”
The group said Chinese Christians needed prayer encouragement that “their unwavering commitment to the Lord,
and to His command to love their enemies, inspire many others to learn more about Jesus.”
Officials and church groups say there may be as many as 130 million Christians in Communist-run China,
though that figure could be higher.
“Ask God to grant wisdom and grace to both the local government officials and the church leaders in the coming weeks and months, so that tensions will lessen, healing can take place, and all remaining churches will be left untouched,” VOMC wrote.
“May He also work out His higher and greater plans for this congregation and those of the other damaged churches in the community”, it said, referring to Bible verse Romans 8:28.