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EDITORIAL
What Were They Thinking?
Confiscation of Bibles in China
Jim Dykstra
29-Aug-2008
"It is self seeking to raise publicity when 'smuggling' Bibles into restricted nations."
Diverse media have published reports regarding confiscation of 300 Bibles in Kunming, China on Sunday August 17, 2008. The Christian news media took liberties to promote this as evidence of persecution in China. This type of publicity used the media at a time when the world’s attention focused on China. While we applaud the efforts of those involved for attempting to meet the needs of Chinese believers we cannot condone the damage this type of self-promotion produced.

Background
Pat Klein, Steve Nichols, Forrest Higginbotham and his 15-year-old grandson Stephen Constantinou were carrying around 300 Bibles when they were stopped after flying into Kunming from Thailand. Chinese officials confiscated the Bibles and told them they could take one Bible per person into the country and pick the rest up on their way out of the country. This is the Chinese law. The men were not arrested but simply read the law. I know of many individuals and groups that have faced the same scenario, self included. That is the risk of bringing Bibles into a restricted nation. This is a noble effort and one that is repeated daily in many nations.

The Issues
First, let me state in no uncertain terms this incident is not persecution. Persecution is harassment for one’s beliefs. A case could be made that customs laws of China persecute the believers in China because of the restrictions and availability placed on Bible ownership. The situation for those involved occurred due to customs laws and not beliefs. No one was arrested or interrogated for their faith. Each one knew beforehand the consequences for “smuggling” Bibles into China.

Second, the publicity surrounding the incident was initiated by those who got caught was not well thought out. I must remind the reader once again this is not the first time Bibles have been confiscated by Chinese customs. Daily Bibles are carried illegally into restricted nations. Bibles are confiscated regularly but many more clear customs to reach those who desperately pray for a Bible. Every Bible will not be confiscated nor is any case of confiscation cause for alarm. The lack of wisdom in contacting AFP news caused dual consequences.

One consequence is for those who work daily to bring the Word of God into China. The publicity reminds authorities that this type of activity occurs frequently. News reports often cuase a crackdown at the borders. This incident puts many people at risk who do this type of distribution daily into many nations. After a few moments of publicity the guilty can go home, while many are caught in the aftermath.

As the second consequence they jeopardized the welfare of Christians in China. I guarantee the result of the publicity will be taken out on innocent Christians, inside the country, through another crackdown just so the underground church does not benefit from the publicity.

Persecution in China is well documented and many are assisting the underground church in quiet ways. These “missionaries” risk their own well-being and those of the underground church in their ministry. The risks are known. Discreet behavior is the rule in this type of work. Let the wise heed our heart.
Jim Dykstra