Churches beg mothers not to abort on the day the country honors its young
By June Cheng
(WNS)–June 1 is Children’s Day in China, a holiday filled with children’s events, reduced entrance fees at tourist attractions, and student performances. Yet for the past five years, Jonny Fan of Chengdu Early Rain Reformed Church has striven to make the celebration include unborn children as well, with his “Don’t Abort on Children’s Day” campaign.
This year, the campaign included church members in multiple cities passing out informational flyers and holding signs outside hospitals, an online 40 Days for Life campaign, as well as the first-ever declaration on the sanctity of life by a church group. The efforts faced little resistance from the government, a sign that perhaps pro-life initiatives are becoming less sensitive in a country with a serious aging population crisis.
Fan and seven congregants arrived at the front gate of Chengdu Women and Children’s Central Hospital at 9:30 a.m., holding placards depicting aborted babies and red banners declaring, “Fetuses are children too. Don’t abort on Children’s Day.” Almost immediately, a security guard approached them, asking them to leave and threatening to call the police. Fan told the guard he understood he was just trying to do his job, but asked his opinion about trying to prevent women from aborting their babies. After a few minutes’ conversation, the guard reluctantly took the flyer Fan handed him, and the group left. For the next half hour, they walked around the area with their signs, handing out flyers to people passing by. Fan said police cars stopped to see what they were doing, but no officers interfered.
“That makes me feel wonderful,” Fan said. “We are not trying to cause conflict, this information is just to help mothers. We don’t criticize policy.”
Fan’s group wasn’t alone Wednesday. Around the city, about 50 members from Chengdu Early Rain Reformed Church, Enfu Church, and By the Streams Church held signs outside six maternity hospitals. And in Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Guiyang, and Handan, individuals and small groups of believers also passed out flyers about abortion.
Most of the activities went off without a hitch, although police brought several people in Chengdu to the local station—due to “miscommunication,” Fan said—then quickly released them. This is an improvement from previous Children’s Day campaigns, which saw plainclothes cops beating a church member and whole groups detained. Fan ultimately lost his job at a marketing firm because of his involvement in planning the events.
For the first time, Fan brought the pro-life issue to a larger audience this year by launching a 40 Days for Life campaign on the Chinese social media site WeChat. Because it would be difficult to pray on the streets, believers shared prayers online, and the group grew from 600 to 1,600 by the end of the 40 days. Some shared stories of how they helped friends keep their babies, others asked questions about abortion. The 40 days ended on Children’s Day, when Fan encouraged group members to inform their community by passing out flyers or making banners.
In the evening, about 100 people gathered at Early Rain for a special talk about the sanctity of life. One church member shared that she had avoided Fan’s pro-life ministry out of guilt about her four abortions, but during the 40 Days for Life campaign, she kept hearing about the topic from the pulpit and felt she could no longer ignore her past. As she watched believers around her repent of their own abortions—more than 50 percent of Early Rain members have had at least one abortion—she felt encouraged to repent herself. Last month, she asked to join the pro-life ministry, wanting to help others in her situation.
“The pro-life movement has to be a church movement,” Fan said. “It has to be a movement of confession and repentance, a movement of courage to face the truth and stop avoiding the problem of abortion.”
And the beginning of this pro-life movement can be marked by the West China Presbytery’s directive on abortion, posted on WeChat Wednesday. While in the past individuals have spoken out against abortion, no church had officially expressed a stance on abortion. That’s not surprising, as education on fetal development is nearly nonexistent in China, and abortion is commonplace even in the church—between 13 and 30 million babies are aborted each year in China.
The presbytery’s directive includes three parts. The first outlines its view on the sanctity of life: Every human is made in the image of God, a fetus is a human life, and thus abortion is murder. It goes on to mention that the church is also guilty for condoning abortion, but all these sins can be forgiven in Christ. The second portion references Bible passages that support the statements, including Psalm 139:13 (For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb) and Deuteronomy 12:31 (…for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods).
The last section includes actions for the churches to take. It calls Christians to help in situations of crisis pregnancies and encourages mothers to keep their babies. If the mother is unable to care for her child, Christians should adopt the children, if they are able. Complicated situations such as rape and teenage pregnancies must be handled with compassion while remembering abortion is not the solution. The section on adoption is groundbreaking for Chinese churches, as adoption is largely spurned in Chinese society.
By the next day, the document had been viewed more than 11,000 times. Commenters jumped in to ask what Christians should do if expectant parents find out their baby is disabled.
Fan believes one day Chinese people will be able to view abortion as a moral issue rather than the accepted status quo. Because so many women in the country have had abortions, he also sees this as a possible opening to share the gospel.
“Light never shines on this secret part [of their lives],” he said. “We can share the gospel of forgiveness about abortion with them.”