A new respiratory virus with origins in the Chinese city of Wuhan has now infected 8,200 people across the world, and has claimed nearly 200 lives.
The outbreak of the coronavirus, which causes pneumonia-like symptoms, prompted Chinese authorities to quarantine several major cities. The usual lunar new year holidays, which typically last no more than 10 days long, have also been tentatively extended to mid-February to prevent the disease from spreading further.
In this time of desperation and fear, China’s Christian community, which has suffered an intensified crackdown by the government in recent years, has stepped up to fill in the gap left unattended by the incompetent authorities.
A Chinese Christian Twitter user shared on January 27, “Some overseas Christians shipped supplies designated to serve local hospitals through local churches, with the intention to ask them to pass on to the hospitals. Yet the supplies were confiscated, and the Christian who received the shipment was invited to ‘have tea’ with the police (which is a common practice employed to intimidate and threaten citizens).”
Christian human rights lawyer Sui Muqing, who has been sharing updates and comments on the outbreak online, received calls from the police and was asked to delete his posts. They called his recent commentaries on Wuhan pneumonia excessive and claimed that his words have caused social damage to the Party and the country.
“If you do not delete [the post], we will take further measures,” said the police, who acknowledged that the order “came from [a] higher level.”
When maintaining stability through censorship remains a top priority for the government, innocent citizens are left to fend for themselves. Emotions are running high as many were advised to self-quarantine until further notice, and masks are flying off the shelves.
Christians in Wuhan seek to bring a message of peace and hope to their neighbors with creativity. A video shared by Father Francis Liu from Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness shows that encouraging sermons are being broadcasted to their communities through speakers placed on balconies. A Christian rode his bike to a pharmacy where people gathered and played a sermon through a portable speaker.
Another video shows that Christians were distributing face masks and Gospel pamphlets to passersby on the streets. Playing in the background was a message broadcasted to address the fear and uncertainties of ongoing crisis.
Activities like this would normally attract the police’s attention and Christians would face possible threats or arrest. Yet, during this unusual time, most streets are empty and the authorities are occupied looking after themselves, so these Christians are able to carry out their activities.
Christians from other provinces offer their homes to host people fleeing from Hubei province who face housing discrimination. Brother Jia Xuewei and sister Shu Qiong, from the heavily persecuted Early Rain Covenant Church in Sichuan, decided to open up their homes and cover the escapees’ room and board until Hubei lifts its quarantine.
Local pastors share uplifting words and encourage Christians to stay strong. Pastor Huang Lei from Wuhan’s Root and Fruit Church published an article on January 24, saying, “While the real situation is possibly more severe and complicated than what is known, regardless of what circumstances we are in, we should not worry and fear all the disasters, pandemic, and death, ‘because He is the Lord of our lives. If He does not allow [it to happen], we will not even have a single hair fall out from our heads.’”
Pastor Tan Songhua from Wuhan Cornerstone Church also told his congregation that although they face trials of faith and personal safety, Jesus only has “plans to prosper you and not to harm you (Jeremiah 29:11).” He then called on Christians to pray for this city, and bring the peace of Christ to everyone.
Please pray for the city of Wuhan: for the epidemic to stop spreading and experts to find a cure soon; and for local Christians to be able to bring Good News to their neighbors amid confusion, stress, and hopelessness.
Source: International Christian Concern