On June 8, 2017, Islamic radicals announced that they had executed two citizens of China, in Pakistan. The two were a man and a woman, apparently a married couple, named Meng Lisi and Li Xinheng. They were identified as unauthorized Christian missionaries who tried to convert Muslims in Balochistan, a dangerous province in Pakistan, where the majority population is Muslim. The couple lived in Quetta, the capital city.
Something interesting is happening there.
- RELATED: Risky road: China’s missionaries follow Beijing west: BBC
If you look at a map of China, you can see that western Chinese territory borders on Pakistan, in a remote mountainous region. Pakistan has been allied with China for decades, as their rival India sided with Russia and the Soviet Union.
Recently, China has invested billions in “Silk Road” trade to the west to expand their trade economy. The Silk Road trade route, including travel by sea near the ancient coast of India and Pakistan, was a popular idea with the ancient Roman Empire, two thousand years ago. At the time of Jesus and the first Christians, the Romans and the Chinese tried to trade with each other. Marco Polo tried again, from Italy, in the Middle Ages. Now the Chinese are reviving the idea, from their side.
The Chinese are probably the best in the world at constructing large railway projects. Did you know they are expanding road and rail links through central Asia to Europe, and through Pakistan, over the mountains to the coast, near the wealthy Persian Gulf?
The coast is in Balochistan. The Chinese are also very busy in Africa, which is directly across the Indian Ocean from their ports in Balochistan.
The Baloch people speak an Iranian language and number about ten million, in Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan, and most are Muslim. Their region has seen violence through most of its history, and now many Balochis want to form their own country, and they have grievances with Pakistan. In the confusion, IS, the Islamic State has become active in the region. They feel safe there.
- RELATED: Bloch People: Wikipedia
To add to the mix, China has invested billions in region, to expand the Silk Road trade network. This is very important to China, and the region now has thousands of Chinese construction workers.
And then there are the Chinese Christians. Did you know that Christians outnumber Communists in China, and China has more Christians than any other country in the world?
Since the Communist takeover after World War Two, Christians have been severely restricted in China, and forced to worship in a few churches that the Communist government permitted. As a result, millions of Christians worship in underground churches, outside the control of the government. Christians are now the largest identifiable group in China, except for Chinese citizens.
One of the ‘Bible Belts’ of China is the province of Zhejiang, on the east coast, just south of Shanghai city. The martyred missionary couple were not from there, but apparently, they were influenced by Christians from that region.
It is important that for decades, Chinese Christians in places like Zhejiang had a missionary model “Back to Jerusalem.” They wanted to preach about Jesus and start new churches along the Silk Road, from China to Jerusalem. Pakistan is on that road.
One more element in this mix is Christians from South Korea. I have met many Korean Christians; recently I led an ESL Bible study with mostly Korean Christians. I have also met many other Koreans in Canada, through my work in ESL and academic English and they all seemed determined and industrious; they don’t back down and they persist until they get what they want. That is my generalization of Korean cultural values.
Koreans have their own Silk Road thinking, and they tend to be friendly with the Chinese. Thousands of Koreans work on projects to the west, in the oil fields, in Muslim majority countries. After the Chinese missionaries were killed in Pakistan, the government expelled their Korean leader for “illegal preaching.”
That won’t be popular in Korea.
A Korean Christian was expelled from Pakistan for talking about Jesus, but Muslims from Pakistan are free to promote Islam in Korea. There would be an enormous protest from places like Pakistan if Muslim preachers were expelled from Korea.
Also, the Communist government in China has a big problem. They must protect their massive investments and the lives of their citizens, but they really don’t like Christians.
You get the picture, it’s complicated.
In the West, the news is filled with angry stories about Donald Trump, and Brexit, and illegal immigrants. We think we are the world. Meanwhile, back in Asia, the world is radically transforming, and Asian Christians are part of the movement. This only became news when a Christian couple was kidnapped and murdered.
In the Bible, Jesus did promise “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16: 18)
The story about the Chinese martyrs is a problem for many Christians in the West, those who half-way, sort-of, kind-of believe, in a mostly cultural sense. But if we say we believe, we should do what we say; that is a value we teach to children. So, really believe in Jesus and believe what He said, or drop the pretense. That was a crisis in my life, years ago. And we should recognize that our brothers and sisters from many places are wrestling with the same questions.
I trust that God will bless them, as we all follow Jesus together.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2: 15)
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23 and 24)