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Who comforts the children of persecuted Christians?

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Yin Xu was 5 years old when she began to realize her family was unwelcome in China.
“The looks (people) gave us were hostile,” she remembers. “When I walked on the street, the neighbors were not friendly with me. I felt shame and fear, but I did not know why.”
Xu had begun to suffer for Christ — before she even knew him.
Her father, Jifa Xu (pronounced SHOO), was a second-generation Christian pastor in Nanjing. Her mother, Ruth, was a third-generation believer. It was a dangerous pedigree for a child in the China of 1960, when communist persecution of religious believers was steadily intensifying.
“In China, what kind of family you are from means everything,” Xu explains. “It’s not just Grandpa. It’s Grandpa’s grandpa’s grandpa. In communism they dig up your family history.”
In her case, they didn’t need to dig very far. As a child, Xu hadn’t yet embraced her parents’ faith in Christ. No matter. As their daughter, she too came under suspicion.
The worst was yet to come. When she was 10, the Cultural Revolution began — unleashing a decade-long reign of terror in China against religious believers, educated people and millions of others condemned as “reactionary elements” by Chairman Mao’s militant Red Guards. Xu’s parents were obvious targets. Both were sent to concentration camps to be “re-educated.”
“I took care of my two younger sisters and lived with my grandmother,” Xu remembers. “I had to face the (local) Cultural Revolution leaders. They asked me to speak about what my parents did wrong against the Communist Party. I was scared to look at their faces, and I didn’t know what to say.
Her parents eventually came home, but the hardships didn’t end.
“At school I lost a lot of rights to attend activities, because my parents were under watch,” Xu says. “I was told they were not good people, so I was not a good child. Only a few people would be friends with me. When I was in high school, my father was put in jail. Every Saturday people were executed. I had started having migraine headaches at age 9, so every Saturday my headache came back. If all the names (of those executed) were posted without my father’s name, a rock was moved away from my heart. Then I waited for the next Saturday.”
How does a child endure such pain and fear? Not without scars.
The family survived the terrible times. Her father was released after two years and cleared of the false charges against him. After the Cultural Revolution, Xu entered a university, studied music at a conservatory and later taught music at the Christian seminary in Nanjing. The family left China and settled in Louisville, Ky., where her father now ministers to Chinese students. Xu entered Southern Baptist Theological Seminary there and earned a divinity degree.
Today she works as a hospital chaplain in Atlanta and prepares for a ministry of counseling — eventually, she hopes, with others who have experienced similar hardships.
“Spiritually and emotionally, they suffer many traumas,” Xu says. “They have difficulty being themselves, and letting themselves have a voice to be heard by others.”
She wants to help them find that voice.
Xu’s worst suffering is over, but it represents religious persecution still occurring in many areas of the world.
How many children today are among the estimated 200 million Christians experiencing persecution in scores of countries? How many face hunger, hostility, even violence each day? How many never get a chance for education or a job in societies that reject them?
Many children begin suffering before they have the opportunity to choose — or even understand — their life of hardship. But in the minds of persecutors, the righteousness of the father must be visited upon the sons and daughters — in the form of punishment.
“I saw the tears of the oppressed — and they have no comforter,” says the preacher in Ecclesiastes 4:1.
Who comforts the children of persecuted Christians? We can comfort them.

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  • Erich Bridges