Church of the Rock pastor, Geng Zejun, served just over a year after ‘refusing to join state-run Three-Self Church’
Pastor Geng Zejun from the Church of the Rock in in Shizuishan city of China’s Ningxia Hui province was released from prison after more than one year for allegedly conducting Sunday services. (Photo: ChinaAid via Weibo)
Authorities in China’s northwestern Ningxia Hui province have released a Protestant pastor who spent more than a year in custody for allegedly conducting Sunday services for local Christians, according to a human rights group.
Geng Zejun, 51, a pastor of a Protestant house church, the Church of the Rock, was freed from a jail in Shizuishan city, China Aid reported on March 23.
The pastor was emotional as he walked out of the detention center on March 19. A video circulated on social media showed him hugging and weeping with his wife, son, and other Christians who gathered to greet him with flowers.
His wife, Hao Ying, posted a message on social media to thank everyone for their prayers and support during his imprisonment, China Aid reported.
“We embraced each other with tears in our eyes, greeted each other in the Lord, and were deeply inspired by the Lord’s Spirit. Thanks be to God for this. His servant has returned in glory! Full of grace, full of blessings,” she wrote.
She said believers and even non-believers gathered to welcome the pastor, which shows nobody can stop the glory of God.
“Thank you all for your constant care and concern. May God remember you and keep you. Please continue to pray for God’s blessing on each other.”
Zejun has been known as a popular preacher in the city of Shizuishan in Ningxia Hui, an autonomous region bordered by Inner Mongolia province.
He has served as a full-time minister since 2005 and started preaching at the Church of the Rock in Ningxia province in 2011.
The church’s leaders and members have faced pressure from police and officials from the Religious Affairs Bureau for years because they refused to join the state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Church, media reports say.
The church was verbally banned from holding any gatherings, and on three separate occasions, police shut down their venue.
On Dec. 5, 2021, police and government officials raided the church during a Sunday worship and church members as well as pastor Zejun were detained. The pastor, his wife, and five Christians were released after ten days. However, he was summoned again and detained by police on Jan. 4, 2022.
On Jan. 25, he was charged with “organizing illegal gatherings.”
Zejun remained in prison for months and on July 13, the People’s Court of Huinong District of Shizuishan held his trial, and in August sentenced him to one year and three months in jail though he pleaded not guilty.
Media reports say his family members were not allowed to see him in prison despite repeated requests. He had contracted Covid-19 and recovered.
He became a popular figure among fellow inmates thanks to his preaching.
His family said he looked thinner upon his release from prison and claimed he lost 10 kilograms during the incarceration.
Zejun’s ordeal was one of the numerous cases of persecution of Christians in communist China, an officially atheist state.
Though the Chinese regime legally recognizes five organized religions — Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism — all religious groups are strictly monitored and required to abide by repressive state regulations and policies, such as registering with the government and obtaining prior permission to run activities in line with the socialist ideologies of the Chinese Communist Party.
Violation of state orders triggers a crackdown including threats, arrests, and imprisonment, which intensified in 2018 when the CCP adopted oppressive new regulations on religious affairs.
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