Another 60 Christians were arrested by Chinese law enforcement during a riverside park service in an ongoing crackdown of the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, China, one of the largest "unlicensed" churches in the region.
The communist government arrested and detained over 100 members of the church earlier in December, including Pastor Wang Yi and his wife, Jiang Rong. The minister is being charged with "inciting subversion of state power" and "stirring up trouble." His wife has not been heard from since the arrests.
World Magazine reports that Chinese law enforcement detained another five dozen men, women, and children in a second mass arrest two weeks ago. The church planned on having a worship service but found their building surrounded by riot police who refused to allow entry to the congregants.
The group then moved to a nearby park where they began their services, reading from their Catechism: "What is your only comfort in life and death? That I am not my own but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ," they read, as the police arrived to arrest the worshippers.
The watchdog group Open Doors noted that communist authorities were using intimidation tactics such as ransacking homes and damaging property the church owns in an attempt to force members to leave the church.
One anonymous church member told RadioFreeAsia that they have "nowhere to worship."
"Many people can't leave their homes," she said, explaining that after the government authorities released some of the members, they were warned that if they tried to celebrate Christmas they would be arrested a second time.
"It's not a good time to talk," she said, noting that police were watching the congregation. "[P]olice came to our home this morning," she added. "Many of our brothers and sisters are in a dangerous situation."
In a lengthy Facebook post, a member of the Early Rain Covenant Church asked for prayer as the persecution intensifies.
"Pray for the brothers and sisters who are locked up. Ask that the Lord would protect, strengthen and use them mightily, that they may become unique ambassadors of the Kingdom of God," the member wrote. "Pray for the family members and children of those who are locked up. Ask the Lord to comfort, protect, and provide for them, to be for them a husband and a father. Pray that God would provide for the brothers and sisters in the midst of their hardships, that they would be led and comforted by the Word of God, that they would have wisdom and creativity in meeting together informally as they are prevented from meeting in the way they used to, and that they would strengthen and support each other. Pray for the hearts of the authorities, officials, and executives. Ask Jehovah to manifest his righteousness to them and to forgive their ignorance. Ask God to spare them of his wrath, for in this day and age, they do not know what they are doing. Ask the Lord Christ to give them a spirit of repentance!"
RFA reported that several other underground churches across the communist nation were targeted by the authorities in December. Congregations in the provinces of Guangdong and Henan were raided after hosting Christmas celebrations.