The church around the world has wrestled with whether to remain or flee when confronted with persecution. In the Middle East, Christian communities have been decimated in recent decades as believers faced stark choices between tortured endurance or fleeing and starting a new life elsewhere.
Scripture offers examples of God’s people both remaining and fleeing persecution, and God using both decisions to further his purposes. Each biblical example of these incidents of remaining and enduring or fleeing, were made under the guidance of the Lord and never under cowardice.
The story continues in modern times, where the faithfulness of Chinese Christians following the 1949 Communist takeover planted the seeds for the robust faith of many believers today. On the other hand, those who left mainland China after Mao came to power developed many of the resources that helped strengthen young house churches in recent decades.
Often forgotten in the legacy of countless examples of those who were marked by boldness and endured persecution, is that circumstances differ. The desire to attach oneself to a historical legacy can be fraught with dangers if detached from a Spirit-led, biblical framework for making decisions about responding to persecution.
In the case of the 60 Chinese Christians that left their homes in Shenzhen, seeking religious asylum in South Korea, the group now must leave South Korea within a few weeks. Although it is not certain the community will return to China, it is not legal for them to remain in Korea beyond mid-February. If they are forced to return to China, they will likely face severe persecution.
Back in Shenzhen, some members of the church who were unable to join the church in Korea have already faced interrogation and even been placed under surveillance or house arrest. If Pastor repatriates to China, he will face serious charges: subversion of state power, colluding with foreign forces, and human trafficking. The trafficking charge is due to Pan’s leadership of his church as they crossed national borders to seek refuge overseas.