A group of sixty-three Chinese Christians that were looking down the barrel of expulsion back to China have now been given shelter within the United States in the wake of being detained in Thailand.
These Christians are members of the Shenzhen Holy Reform Church, which has become known as the “Mayflower Church,” and departed from China over the extreme levels of religious persecution in November 2019. They had hoped to be offered refugee status in Thailand by the United Nations but instead discovered that they were now facing immigration-related charges.
In the wake of negotiations being held between the State Department, Department of Homeland Security, and the U.N, officials in Thailand agreed to let the U.S. accept the Christians, who are looking to become permanent residents of the U.S.
“ChinaAid welcomes the landing of the persecuted Chinese ‘Mayflower Church’ to freedom in America, and welcomes them to Texas,” Bo Fu, the founder ChinaAid, stated in a release Friday, as reported on by RealClearPolitics. “This is truly a Good Friday. Barely a week ago, members of the Mayflower Church were still incarcerated in a jail facing imminent danger of [Chinese Communist Party] kidnapping threats. Now they are safe and free.”
Led by their Pastor Pan Yongguang — a minister ordained by the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) — the group made their way into Dallas Forth Worth International Airport on Friday. It had been a rocky three years for the group, who first tried to take refuge in South Korea prior to fleeing to Thailand.
“This is a successful example of nonpartisan, international cooperation,” expressed ChinaAid CEO Chad Bullard. “We are thankful to all parties including various U.S. government agencies, particularly the State Department’s International Religious Freedom Office led by Ambassador Rashad Hussain, the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, USCIRF, and a number of congressional offices including Chairman Mike McCaul and Chairman Chris Smith.”
As a New Jersey Republican that sits as chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Smith was quite happy when told the news. “It is a very Good Friday indeed, and a perfect Easter gift to see these persecuted Chinese Christians arrive and be allowed to practice their faith freely in the United States,” he explained. “Had they been forcibly repatriated to China, they would have been jailed and severely persecuted.”
Additional legislators that pushed for the State Department to step in on behalf of these Chinese Christians included Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
“I was proud to assist in the effort to get them to safety alongside many others, including Ambassador Godec and the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, the State Department’s legislative team, key members of Congress, the Royal Thai Government, and Ambassador Tanee and the Royal Thai Embassy,” explained Cruz in a release. “I am especially grateful for ChinaAid and Freedom Seekers International, and for the people of Tyler, Texas who have welcomed the congregation into their homes. Because of their generosity and diligence, the Mayflower Church can now share in the freedoms that we enjoy every day in America.”