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Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Beijing Olympics and our Brothers and Sisters in Christ

Beijing Opening CeremoniesGive credit where credit it due: China did an amazing job with the opening ceremonies. I had seen programs on the making of the Bird's Nest and the Cube and knew that these opening ceremonies were going to be great. China did not disappoint. The precision of the performers, the LED screen on the floor, the drummers, the skillful combination of the old and the new, the drawing of the dancers, the lighting of the torch...all of it made for a tremendous show.

The Olympics are an occasion for the nations of the world to temporarily lay aside differences, come together, and unify through the friendly competition of the Olympic sports. This is a time when many reflect on world peace and dream of what could be one day. No matter your political convictions, there is something fun about watching heads of state cheer for their countrymen just as enthusiastically as we do. Watching President Bush and his family go nuts after Michael Phelps's big race Saturday should bring a smile rather than thoughts or any opposition to his policies.

And yet we must remember. The author of Hebrews has exhorted and admonished us to "remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body." Our brothers in sisters in Christ face tremendous persecution in China. The Voice of the Marytyrs and others who speak for and minister to persecuted Christians have informed us of Chinese pesecution for years.

One might think that China would cease or decrease their oppression of Christians and other religious minorities while the eyes of the world are upon them during this time. However, the persecution has not stopped leading up to the Olympics but has increased. Christians in ChinaOn August 6, 2008, Pastor Zhang "Bike" Mingxuan, the president of the Chinese House Church Alliance, and his wife were arrested while on his way to deliver medicine to his ill wife. Many house churches have been shut down and others have been forced to sign a covenant agreeing not to meet from July 20th through September 20th, the end of the para-olympic games. See other stories of persecution here. Speaking of China's "labor camps," where many Christians are sent for "re-education," one human rights activist stated, "'Many of us have heard stories about China's gulags, but when you discover how close some of these hellholes are to Olympic venues, it's sickening,' says Clive Ansley, China Monitor for Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada and North American President of CIPFG."

I have never been a big proponent of boycotts because I do not think they are effective. But let's not allow ourselves to be lulled into accepting the whitewashed portrayals of China and their new "openness" that are being presented to us during the Olympics. The opening ceremonies were wonderful but it was just a show. The competition is thrilling but they are just games. The imprisonments, confiscations, closures, and suffering our our brothers and sisters in China is very real and will last well beyond the Beijing Olympics. Enjoy the games as will I but let us also remember the members of our body in China.

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