Statement of the Synodal Council concerning the fact that Chinese Christians were not granted asylum in the Czech Republic
Only eight Chinese Christians who had applied for international protection in the Czech Republic were granted asylum by the Ministry of the Interior at the end of February. The refugees filed their applications in early 2016, however the decision was postponed several times and, in the end, 70 applications were rejected.
The Board of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in the Czech Republic had sent an appeal to members of the Czech government as early as September 2016. At the beginning of March 2018, the ECCB’s Synodal Council issued the following statement:
“We are grateful for the fact that eight asylums were granted. Christians in the People’s Republic of China are being persecuted for their faith, which means that if those whose applications were rejected had to return to their home country, they would be highly likely to be punished and persecuted. Our wish for these people is that they might stay in our country and be given the opportunity to exercise their faith freely, as they are not able to do so in their own country.”
The lawyers representing the asylum-seekers whose applications were rejected are planning to bring the decision of the Ministry of the Interior to court, in order for it to be re-examined. The facts that the applicants are showing an active interest in being integrated into Czech society, they are learning Czech, some of them are working, all prove that they do not intend to be dependent on social security benefits and they are not economic migrants. Let us pray for Chinese Christians in their home country as well as in ours!
Gatherings and Prayers for the Persecuted
The group of asylum-seekers from China contacted the ECCB’s Diaconia two years ago. They were looking for somebody with whom they could share their faith and who would help them in the new country. Based on their own testimonies, supported by information from various international organisations such as China Aid, Human Rights Watch or Freedom House, these people are not allowed to exercise their faith freely in their own country. They had considered the Czech Republic to be a democratic country which would make this possible. Since their arrival, they have established many new friendships, we often meet them in the Diaconia’s centres and in various Christian congregations. They are learning Czech, many of them have found a job. At the same time, however, their concerns about being sent back to China are still apparent.
Meeting on 16 March at the Victims of the Communist Regime Memorial under the Petřín Hill
The meeting supporting the rights of minorities in China was opened with a Chinese song and the lighting of candles. The aim was to draw attention to the situation of the Chinese Christians whose asylum applications had been rejected, as well as to other ethnic and religious minorities in this country. White candles, arranged in the shape of the number 70, symbolised the number of people who had not been successful with their asylum applications; only eight of them were granted asylum. The number was surrounded with red candles arranged in the shape of a heart.
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” This was the verse with which Mikuláš Vymětal, pastor of the ECCB, opened the meeting. Pavel Pokorný, pastor and member of the ECCB’s Synodal Council, invited the attendants to reflect upon the following words: “When China becomes a free country one day, which it certainly will, the grandchildren of the witnesses of the totalitarian regime will ask: who offered a you helping hand? What about that Christian Europe, the countries who had experienced oppression under a totalitarian regime themselves? And the witnesses will have to respond: nobody helped us, we received no support at all; they only spoke nicely of their freedom and their Christian values, but did not receive our people. And their voices will reach the ears of our grandchildren, who will be ashamed of us.”
Representatives of the Jewish and Muslim community also spoke at the meeting. A prayer was said both in Chinese and in Czech. The meeting was concluded with bells ringing at the Catholic church of Our Lady of Victory and the Protestant U Salvátora Church.
Meeting on 13 May by the Prague Loreta
Another ecumenical meeting to support the Chinese Christians who were not granted asylum in the Czech Republic took place on Sunday 13 May in front of the Prague Loreta. The chimes were played and prayers were said for the seventy Christians who are in danger of being deported and persecuted.
The meeting began with seventy symbolic strikes of the Loreta bells and the most famous Christian song, Amazing Grace, sung by the participants of the gathering. Then Psalm 70 was recited both in Chinese and in Czech.
The organisers spoke, among other things, of the current situation. The asylum-seekers whose applications had been turned down reacted by filing lawsuits, which means the matter will go to court. Members of the ECCB’s congregation in Libčice nad Vltavou have put together a petition, which is to be handed over to the Chairmen of both chambers of the Czech Parliament. The total number of signatures reached 14,894, easily exceeding the 10,000 limit required for a petition to be dealt with in a public hearing.
The Synodal Council of the ECCB, the Ecumenical Council of Churches of the Czech Republic, the Czech Bishops’ Conference and the Central Council of the Czech Hussite Church all voiced their support for the Chinese Christians who were not granted asylum in the Czech Republic.
Expression of Gratitude from the Chinese Christians
Here is an excerpt from their letter:
Dear Ladies, dear Gentlemen,
We are the Chinese Christians seeking asylum in the Czech Republic. We would like to thank everybody who has been helping us and showing us kindness and love.
In February 2018, when 70 of us received the decision about our asylum applications being rejected, we were deeply disappointed and our hearts were full of anxiety and fear that we might be deported back to China. Very soon afterward, however, we received support from many Czechs. These manifestations of love fill our hearts with warmth to protect us from fearing the cold, rejecting decision, and have given us enough faith to keep going.
“Don’t be afraid, we will fight for you.” Those were the firm words of our lawyers who work for us free of charge. This has eased our worries. Various petitions have increased our courage to stay in the Czech Republic. Many people are helping us silently. Every form of support and kindness gives us great strength. Two years ago, we arrived in the Czech Republic with a desire for democracy and freedom. At the same time, we felt confusion and fear in an unknown country. We thank God for his protection: there are so many good people helping us here. Thanks to you, we are not alone and thanks to you we will not give up easily. Thank you again. May God bless you.
Jana Vondrová, Jiří Hofman