The Christians are members of the Shenzhen Holy Reform Church, also known as the “Mayflower Church,” and left China due to religious persecution in November 2019. They had hoped to be granted refugee status in Thailand by the United Nations, but instead they faced immigration-related charges.
After negotiations with the State Department, Department of Homeland Security, and the U.N, Thailand agreed to let the U.S. take in the Christians, who hope to become permanent residents of the U.S.
“ChinaAid welcomes the landing of the persecuted Chinese ‘Mayflower Church’ to freedom in America, and welcomes them to Texas,” ChinaAid Founder Bo Fu said in a Friday statement, according to RealClearPolitics. “This is truly a Good Friday. Barely a week ago, members of the Mayflower Church were still incarcerated in a jail facing imminent danger of [Chinese Communist Party] kidnapping threats. Now they are safe and free.”
The group, led by Pastor Pan Yongguang, a minister ordained by the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA), landed at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport on Friday. It had been a tumultuous three years for the group, who initially had attempted to stay in South Korea before moving to Thailand.
“This is a successful example of nonpartisan, international cooperation,” ChinaAid CEO Chad Bullard said. “We are thankful to all parties including various U.S. government agencies, particularly the State Department’s International Religious Freedom Office led by Ambassador Rashad Hussain, the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, USCIRF, and a number of congressional offices including Chairman Mike McCaul and Chairman Chris Smith.”
Smith, a New Jersey Republican who is chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, was pleased with the news. “It is a very Good Friday indeed, and a perfect Easter gift to see these persecuted Chinese Christians arrive and be allowed to practice their faith freely in the United States,” he said. “Had they been forcibly repatriated to China, they would have been jailed and severely persecuted.”
Other lawmakers who asked the State Department to intervene on behalf of the Chinese Christians included Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).
“I was proud to assist in the effort to get them to safety alongside many others, including Ambassador Godec and the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, the State Department’s legislative team, key members of Congress, the Royal Thai Government, and Ambassador Tanee and the Royal Thai Embassy,” Cruz said in a statement. “I am especially grateful for ChinaAid and Freedom Seekers International, and for the people of Tyler, Texas who have welcomed the congregation into their homes. Because of their generosity and diligence, the Mayflower Church can now share in the freedoms that we enjoy every day in America.”