Friday, October 17, 2008

Caption: Inside one of the many Catholic chapels in China. Zhao Wang, a student at Jilin University inside the Catholic chapel in Jilin City. Pic by Mathew Yakai

Praising God in China is awesome

By Mathew Yakai, Changchun, China

JACKSON Siru from Gaulga tribe in the Tambul District of Western Highlands Province once asked me during one of my many telephone calls earlier this year whether there are churches or Christian denominations in China.

His question emanated from the fact that many Papua New Guineans (PNG)as well as foreigners think that Great China, being the remaining communist state restricts any religious organizations.

I told him bluntly that I have heard of Catholic Churches, Muslim worshipers and other denominations in China and Changchun, the city I am currently living.

Since arriving on Sep 1, 2007, I have never been to the Catholic Church in Changchun.

The last time I went to Church was at Koke Good Sheppard, while living at Badili King Christ Hostel. The English sermon at Koke was always relieving and breathe taking to forget the world and dwell in the spiritual realm of God.

But those moments have gone when I left for China. Like any other new students, I was excited with the growing cities in China with “bright lights”, new food, nice people, and four different seasons and above all busy with studies.

Given the double digit economic growth of China, the world was focusing on the ‘middle kingdom”, which many observers thing would become the new “middle kingdom” in the 21st Century.

So I was also interested in China, and wanted to know more about this amazing country so that it would help me to assist PNG to work along with China in the future.

That has kept me so busy, digging into books, surfing internets, meeting Chinese in pub and restaurants to have casual discussions on regional and international issues relating to China’s growth, and try to associate them to PNG’s situation.

But Sunday Oct 12 2008 is the date I will remember in my life in China. This is the day that made me feel how wonderful and awesome to praise God in China, the country I once though had never even allow a bible or preaching of gospel.

At 4:20pm (Beijing time) I was in a group of international students left our hotel in the Church bus to two other universities within Changchun city to pick up more international students.

By the time we picked up the last lot of students, the bus with more then 50 seats was full with joyous students from Africa, Asia, South America, Caribbean and I was the only one from Pacific.

The students who are all under the Chinese Government Scholarship were heading for the Onnuri Community Church, a representative Protestant church in Korea and have more than 50,000 members.

The group was a real international gathering for the usual 5pm to 7pm Sunday Church service. When we arrived at the church ground, there were Korean church goers.

At that time I felt within my heart, “In a land far away like China, God is so kind to bring men and women from different ethnicity and cultural background to worship in one family.”

I met student’s church goers from all over African countries line Nigeria, Togo. Others from India, East Timor, Iraq, Mexico, USA, Canada, Taiwan, Japan, Australia and Albania.

The fellowship started from 5pm to 5:15pm. Following thereafter was bible class from 5:15 to 5:50 pm and main worship at 6pm to 7pm.

In the room filled with people of different nationality and ethnicity was so awesome worshiping in Gods name.

What really touched me were the prayers when people said in their own language. I would not imagine that one day, a Chinese would pray in Chinese language.

Then you also hear a Korean praying in Korean language, Indian, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Nigerian, Brazilian …it was like the call by China to speak thousand of tongues under one God.

And I thought if God’s royal line is open then He must have his angels who are able to understand different languages to convey the essence of the prayers to His throne.

Imagine, God is awesome and he hears ones prayer in different tongues from different parts of the world.

The resident pastor at Onnuri Community Church is Pastor Joseph Kim from South Korea. He was born in Korea, has a Canadian Citizenship and an American lawyer and has a Masters of Divinity. A well educated man of God.

Pastor Kim took us through the message from Philemon 1:8-22. When hearing the world of God it was after one year since I left PNG’s Koke Good Shepherd in late August 2007.

After one year, the Word was so sweet like the salt that can still keep your mouth filled with sliver.

He also emphasized his churches mission as most of the people there were new comers. The church aims to foster loving relations between God and his people, wants to train young people to become global leaders through the word of God, worship must be based on the world of God alone and wants to establish international network of people to share the love of God.

Pastor Kim emphasized to the international students that with God, they can achieve great things in their lives and serve their country by being great global leaders in the 21st century.

“That is why China gave you scholarship and brought you here to study”

“I am sure that many of you here will be the president and prime ministers of your country, or advisors to your governments, or ambassadors, or secretary general of the UN, or powerful preachers,” pastor Kim told the audience at the church, who were mainly international student in Changchun city.

Pastor Kim has a big mission to spread the word of God in China and other parts of the world.

Onnuri was founded in Seoul, South Korea in 1984 with the vision of modeling itself after the early church in the book of Acts, centered on anointed preaching, passionate worship, and the globalization of the Good News of Jesus.

It has 55,000 church members and 24 visions (branch) churches world-wide. It has established Jeonju University, Torch Trinity Seminary, CGN TV and Duranno Publishing Company.

In Changchun, Onnuri Community Church is planning to open a Christian bookshop and cafeteria to spread the ministry.

The Onnuri Community Church in Changchun was established in 2000 and on Oct 12 it marked its 8th Anniversary.

The English service called the Mosaic community was established in March 2008. Now people with various backgrounds serve as members, excluding the Chinese citizens, Korean citizens and North Korean citizens.

The Onnuri Community Church in Changchun is an example of the rising church observance in China today, particularly after China’s economic reform and opening up in 1978.

According to Council on Foreign Relations, religious observance in China is on the rise.
A survey published in a state-run newspaper, 31.4 percent of Chinese adults are religious, a figure that is three times the initial government estimate.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is officially atheist, but it has been growing more tolerant of religious activity for the past twenty years.

China's constitution explicitly allows "freedom of religious belief," and in 2005, the State Council passed new guidelines broadening legal rights for state-sanctioned groups.

In March, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recognized these efforts and removed China from the State Department's list of top human rights violators

Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution says that Chinese citizens "enjoy freedom of religious belief." It bans discrimination based on religion, and it forbids state organs, public organizations, or individuals from compelling citizens to believe in—or not to believe in—any particular faith.

In 2005, the State Council passed new Regulation on Religious Affairs, which allow religious organizations to possess property, publish literature, train and approve clergy, and collect donations as long as they have registered with the state.

According to Chinese criminal law, officials who deny citizens of their right to religious belief can be sentenced up to two years in prison.

But religious freedom is still not universal in China. The state only recognizes five official religions—Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism—and considers the practice of any other faith illegal.

Religious organizations are required to register with one of five state-sanctioned patriotic religious associations, each of which is supervised by the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA). Religious groups that fail to affiliate with one of the five official religions are denied legal protection under Chinese law.

Well, its better to start somewhere then never at all.

During the recent Olympic Games, the Olympic Committee distributed bibles to international visitors and designated venues for worship, a clear indication of China’s respect for religion.

After 30 years of economic reform and opening up, China has also progressed in allowing its people to worship God.

Praise God, now Jackson knows that he can still practice his faith in China.