“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:20
Jesus spoke these words to his disciples as part of a larger discussion about standing up for what’s right and gathering support so you don’t have to go it alone. Maybe that’s a simplistic breakdown of this larger scripture, Matthew 18:15-20, but I feel like the Holy Spirit has been leading me to that revelation for the last 48 hours.
Today is the anniversary of what the West knows as the massacre at Tiananmen Square. On June 4, 1989, China commanded the People’s Army, 150,000 soldiers, to turn their weapons on a crowd of peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China. The number of dead still remains unknown, with estimates from 500 to 2,600 dead.
In some ways, I draw parallels between our 9-11 and Tiananmen, with the loss of lives—innocents—being so close in number. [2,997 is the official number of dead from the events on 9-11-2001]. Yet, our outrage has been expressed so differently; we live in a free society that encourages free speech, even when it’s hateful or misguided. In China, solidarity is key; the social fabric will unravel if there is discord.
Why do the events from a quarter of a century ago in a country so far away matter to me? From 1987-88, my husband, Stu, and I taught English at Yanbian University in Yanji City, China. Our students were the same age as those pro-democracy demonstrators, and, to this day, we don’t know for sure whether any of them were there on that tragic day. Just eight months before, China was experiencing a sense of freedom that was palpable. Eight months later, university students, maybe some of the same ones we taught, gathered on Tiananmen Square for a pro-democracy demonstration. They believed that the government would listen to them. I remember the small, cheesy statue of liberty that represented freedom for them. Stu and I watched from our TV set thousands of miles away, cheering for them. No one expected the government to run them down, to turn their own soldiers on these peaceful students. But they did. And now, 25 years later, we remember the shock and horror from that tragic day.
As Christians, we need to stand up for what is right. To call out injustice. To put hope before fear. My prayer today is that we do not forget, but show that we stand with those who cry out for justice and freedom. Our vision for PVUMC is “Love that crosses all barriers and embraces all people.” If we truly believe that, we need to embrace the Chinese and cross those political and historical barriers.
In a recent Sojourners post, Wes Granberg-Michaelson, author of From Times Square to Timbuktu: The Post-Christian West Meets the Non-Western Church, and General Secretary of the Reformed Church in America for 17 years, said this:
“Christian faith knows that a sustainable, promising future cannot be built by denying that past, but rather by redeeming it. We remember spilt blood. The 25th Anniversary of blood spilt at Tiananmen Square and elsewhere should be the occasion for resurrecting memory as the best safeguard against repeating such a tragedy in the future.”
Today we remember, so tomorrow we don’t make the same mistake. — Pam Selthun, Communications Director, PVUMC