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Chinese congregation arrives in US after three-year plight

21 April 2023

Associated Press/Alamy Stock Photo

Members of the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church, the “Mayflower Church”, leave Pattaya Provincial Court, Thailand, on 31 March

Members of the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church, the “Mayflower Church”, leave Pattaya Provincial Court, Thailand, on 31 March

AN ENTIRE congregation arrived in the United States from China on Good Friday, after a three-year quest for asylum.

The 63 members of the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church — known as the Mayflower Church, after the name of the ship that brought the Pilgrims to the US in the 17th century — fled China after threats and persecution.

They initially travelled to South Korea, remaining there for almost three years, but then moved on to Thailand, to seek UNHCR refugee status. But all 63 — including 32 children — were detained by immigration police in Thailand, and placed in detention centres, where they feared deportation back to China.

US officials then stepped in and negotiated their release, the charity China Aid said.

The group arrived at Fort Worth, Dallas, on Good Friday. Freedom Seekers International, a Texas-based group that rescues, resettles, and supports people who are persecuted for their faith, will aid in the resettlement of the congregation.

Dr Bob Fu, the founder of China Aid, an advocacy organisation for persecuted Christians in China, said: “It is the most joyful homecoming to welcome the Mayflower Church to Texas. Now they can live out their faith fully, without fear of persecution.”

Congressman Chris Smith, one of several politicians who lobbied for their arrival in the US, said in a statement: “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. Had they been forcibly repatriated to China, they would have been jailed and severely persecuted.”

House churches in China have faced increasing restrictions and surveillance, and many have been closed down by the government. Regulations imposed in 2018 banned under-18-year-olds from attending church.

China is currently ranked 14th on Open Door’s Watch list of countries where Christians are most at risk.

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