Above the west entrance to Westminster Abbey there is a statue made by Neil Simmons of Wang Zhiming, a Chinese Christian. It is one of 10 statues at the Abbey dedicated to 20th century Christians martyrs.
The death of Wang Zhiming reminds me of Daniel and the Lion’s Den.
In Daniel 6, King Darius signed an order that could not be revoked.
“Whoever prays to anyone, divine or human, for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into a den of lions.” – Daniel 6:7
It was a trap for Daniel, set by people who despised Daniel’s faith in God and who wanted him gone.
Just as they suspected, Daniel would not be deterred in his faith and worship.
“Although Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he continued to go to his house, which had windows in its upper room open toward Jerusalem, and to get down on his knees three times a day to pray to his God and praise him, just as he had done previously.” – Daniel 6:10
After hearing that Daniel had defied the order, King Darius had no choice but to throw Daniel into the lions den. The king did not want to do it because Daniel had always practiced his faith within guidelines set by the government, but he had no choice. Those who despised Daniel reminded the King that the order could not be revoked.
But God saved Daniel from the lions by sending a protecting angel, and in the end the King made a decree that all the people would “tremble and fear before the God of Daniel” (Dan. 6:26). Because of Daniel’s fearless faith, God’s glory was known to everyone.
And so it was with Wang Zhiming.
Wang Zhiming became a pastor in the ethnic minority churches in Wuding and Lequan Counties in the early 1950’s. In the 40’s through early 60’s Wand Zhiming was a prominent and integral member of the church, helping to spread the gospel message to his people, working in cooperation within the guidelines set before the church by the Chinese government.
However, in the 1960’s Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution raised up the atheist Red Guard who were encouraged to destroy everything “bourgeoisie” including bookstores, libraries, churches, temples, monuments, art . . . anything thought to be connected with Western philosophies and culture. They were also granted permission to persecute anyone who stood in their way, especially people with religious views.
The “king” had made a decree against those who prayed to anyone other than him.
During the Cultural Revolution, it is estimated that “some 1.5 million people were killed during the Cultural Revolution, and millions of others suffered imprisonment, seizure of property, torture or general humiliation.” (History Channel)
Wuding County was a favorite target of the Red Guard and Wang Zhiming, who had now become a critic of Mao and The Red Guard, was considered an enemy of the state.
“Between 1969 and 1973 at least twenty-one Christian leaders in Wuding were interned. Some were intellectuals, other workers. Some were senior party officials. Many were sent to camps, were denounced or beaten. Muslims in the county were also persecuted. Wang Zhiming was known to be a critic of the atheistic campaigns of local Red Guards. In May 1969 he and other members of his family were arrested. Four years later he was condemned to death” – Westminster Abbey website.
On December 29, 1973, Wang Zhiming was thrown into the proverbial lions den. And like Daniel, he was not afraid. He knew God was with him to the very end, whatever that meant.
10,000 observers looked on while Wang Zhiming was put on trial for 5 separate crimes against the government. Prior to his trial, the guards sliced his tongue so that he could not preach or declare his faith in God at his trial. After de was pronounced guilty, paraded around the town for an hour, and taken to the airport and shot.
Daniel survived the lion’s den, Wang Zhiming did not escape his martyrdom. Yet the results were the same.
Immediately following Wang Zhiming’s execution, Christians who were forced to watch the execution refused to be submissive onlookers and rioted. They proved that even though the Chinese government could kill Christians, the work of Wang Zhiming and other like him would last for generations. Wang Zhiming’s death empowered Christians to act against persecution and stand strong in their faith. God was glorified in China by Wang Zhiming’s death.
At the time of Wang Zhiming’s arrest, several sources estimate that there were about 2,800 Christians in Wuding. By 1980, there were about 12,000 due to Wang Zhiming’s powerful faith and witness for God’s glory.
In 1981, a memorial on his grave site was erected. It is the only memorial in China dedicated to a Christian martyr.
For additional reading:
God is Red: The Secret Story of How Christianity Survived and Flourished in Communist China by by
Blog: Sapushan Impression
God, thank you for Wang Zhiming’s example on how to stand up against persecution. Thank you that your church is still thriving in Wuding. We ask that you please be with our Christian brothers and sisters throughout all of China because persecution still exists there and many Christians are in prison there. Let your glory be known through their faith in you. Help us to have faith in you like they have.
In Jesus’ name,