Chapter 14: Tea Time With the Police

Treating Your Oppressors as People


My supervisor has refused my request for leave, just as my wife was about to give birth.” The man’s chin trembled as he poured out his anxiety and grief.

He is a friend, a man I have spent much time with over the years. We have gotten to know and trust each other, to the point where he is willing to open up about his frustrations with his boss, his job, and even his purpose in life.

Yes, he is a friend…who is a member of the security police of my country. His job: to monitor Christians like me. Included in his duties: repressing the work of Christians, harassing men, women, and children guilty of nothing more than living as Christ followers, and breaking up entire house church networks.

I am one of his “cases.” And yet, we are friends. How did this happen? And why have I been willing to bring this man and others like him into my circle of friends?


AS A YOUNG MAN, I was a promising student. In the 1980s, I was permitted to move to the United States and begin PhD studies. I had been encouraged by my government to pursue doctoral studies in America.

But at the same time, I was active in a rising student movement advocating for more freedom and even democracy for our country. This movement was rising against a monolithic, one-party system that exercised control over virtually all aspects of our lives.

Our movement was not well received by those in power. Along with my fellow activists, I knew all of our activities were being monitored and recorded by our government. Still, we harbored increasing hope that things were changing for the better.

Those hopes were shattered in 1989 when the government brutally cracked down on a major student demonstration that had captured the world’s attention for weeks. No one knows how many people were killed as army tanks rolled through our capitol city’s central square, but it is said the death toll ran into the hundreds. Our budding democracy movement was effectively crushed. It was a devastating …

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