ZHANG CHUNHUA | BITTER WINTER
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They cannot remember their own martyrs but should pray for the Communist soldiers who died in the war with Japan.
Christians in China are forbidden to pray for their martyrs. Those killed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) obviously cannot be commemorated, but even those martyred for their faith in Imperial China are not remembered, lest the devotees make unpleasant comparisons with later killings.
However, there are times when all Christians throughout China should mandatorily celebrate martyrs. Last week at Fujian Theological Seminary members of the local Three-Self Church were invited to celebrate the martyrs of what in China is called the “People’s War of Resistance Against the Japanese Aggression.” Jesus as King of Peace was also prayed for the “peaceful reunification” of China, with an eye on Taiwan.
It did not happen in Fujian only. In fact a directive was sent to all churches that are part of the government-controlled Protestant Three-Self Church, the only Protestant church with a legal existence in China, reading as follows:
“To the Christian churches in each province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the central government.
This year is the 76th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War. To respond positively to the initiative of the Chinese Religious Peace Council, a notice is hereby issued to the Christian churches in each province (or autonomous region or municipality directly under the central government), inviting churches to organize peace prayer worship activities to commemorate the 76th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War around September 3, according to the actual situation.
Churches and congregations may, according to the actual local situation, carry out relevant peace prayer activities in a small and decentralized form, in line with the local requirements for prevention and control of the new COVID epidemic, to further promote the fine tradition of patriotism and love of religion and to demonstrate the good image of peace-loving Christianity in China.
Churches are requested to submit evidence of the relevant activities (text, video and photo materials) to the Media Ministry Department of the China Christian Council by September 10.”
The last sentence means that if some church declines the “invitation” and does not quickly submit evidence that the celebration of the martyrs was held, there will be consequences.
In September 1945 Japan’s troops in China surrendered after a bloody war. Both Nationalist and Communist troops, together with the international powers who fought Japan in World War II, participated in the campaign. However, the official commemorations only celebrate the martyrs of the Communist Red Army, minimizing both the role of the Nationalists and the fact that the Communists took advantage of the war to attack Nationalist units, preparing their eventual victory in the Civil War.
Christians are prevented from honoring their own martyrs. But they should honor the martyrs of the Red Army or the CCP—or else.