Chinese authorities ordered the demolition of gravestones of Swedish missionaries credited with converting thousands of Chinese citizens to Christianity nearly a century ago.
Claiming the structures were “illegal,” over 100 special police and public security officers and personnel from various government institutions blocked Xiezhou cemetery located in the Yanhu district of Yuncheng on Sept. 12, according to Bitter Winter, an online magazine that focuses on religious freedom and human rights in China.
A short time later, three excavators were brought in to destroy the gravestones of 20 Swedish missionaries buried in the cemetery, along with the adjoining guest house, designating it, too, as an “illegal construction.” During the demolition, aerial drones flew overhead and monitored the destruction.
To conceal the demolition, government-hired personnel planted vegetation atop the ruins overnight. A government insider told Bitter Winter that all villagers living near the cemetery were summoned to the local police station prior to the demolition, and their cellphones were confiscated to prevent information leaks.
The demolished gravestones were established in 2008 by the Church of Christ’s Family, a local house church established in 2008 to honor missionaries with the Swedish Mission in China, including Verner Wester, who lived in China from 1903 to 1930, and his six family members.
The missionaries served in Yuncheng before expanding to other areas in Shanxi and adjoining provinces of Henan and Shaanxi. Verner, along with the other missionaries, helped build 60 churches with over 6,000 members. They also established Yucheng Hospital, which residents could use for free. The hospital is credited with saving thousands of lives.
The Swedish missionaries “played an important role in the areas’ development and led numerous locals to Christianity,” notes Bitter Winter.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leah MarieAnn Klett