For the first time on the International Day of Christian Martyrs, Christians from China who died in Pakistan were honored. According to church tradition, June 29 was the day of the martyrdom of the Apostle Paul. This year, on June 29, Christians around the world commemorated those who sacrificed their lives to spread the gospel. In 2022, the first famous Chinese martyrs Meng Lis and Li Xinheng were also commemorated.
The Voice of the Martyrs – Korea, a non-governmental organization that serves persecuted Christians around the world, erected a commemorative plaque in the martyr timeline which was dedicated to Chinese Christians Meng Lis and Li Xinheng on the International Day of Christian Martyrs, Wednesday, June 29th. That day, a press conference was held at the organization’s office in honor of two believers from China.
Meng and Li taught at a language center in Quetta, Pakistan. On May 24, 2017, they were walking down the street when armed men grabbed them and forced them into a car at gunpoint. On June 8, 2017, the Islamic State terrorist group released a video of the execution of two Christians.
Voice of the Martyrs Korea CEO Pastor Eric Foley says the time has come for Meng and Li to be officially recognized as Christians around the world.
“Meng and Li are the first known martyrs from China to die in a foreign land,” says Pastor Foley. “Their story must be remembered, honored, told and retold to Christians until Christ returns.”
According to Pastor Foley, the story of Meng and Li is not well known to Christians due to international political tensions.
“From the moment this happened, powerful circles, for various reasons, wanted to distort or hide their story,” says Pastor Foley. “China did not want other Christians in the country to repeat their fate. The government also worried that the economic partnership with Pakistan would be undermined. Pakistan did not want to look like a nation of Islamic extremists, where terrorists kill the citizens of another country. Korea did not want to look like a nation of Christian extremists recklessly sending missionaries to dangerous regions of the world. And missionary organizations and churches in China and Korea seem to have decided that silence is the best way to avoid further trouble with the governments of all the nations involved and ensure the safety of other employees.”
“As a result,” says Pastor Foley, “the memory of Meng and Li is being erased or believers have misinformation about them.”
“The governments and their representatives have claimed that Meng and Li were students who were deceived, lured into missionary work, brainwashed or that they were immature or impulsive Christians who did not realize the seriousness of their actions. Some people think they weren’t missionaries at all,” says Pastor Foley. But the organization’s study of two Chinese believers suggests otherwise.
“Therefore, for the past two years, Voice of the Martyrs Korea has been carefully researching, documenting and verifying the story of Meng Lisi and Li Xinheng,” said Pastor Foley. “Our team and assistants traveled throughout Korea, China and Pakistan itself, including to the site of the abduction, to speak with eyewitnesses, study documents and record all the details of what happened.”
Pastor Foley says this is not a story about governments, mission organizations or churches, but rather about the deep commitment to God of two young Chinese Christians.
“Our research showed that they weren’t brainwashed, tricked or taken advantage of by their naivete and youth to be sent to Pakistan,” says Pastor Foley. “They knew, loved and served the Lord long before they thought about missionary work, and became Christians the way most Chinese Christians do: they heard the gospel from other believers in China. Meng and Li came to believe in God in their homeland, not from Korean missionaries. Their parents are Christians. Each of them prepared for the mission for years. Each of them went to university to prepare for their calling. Their vision came from God, not from a church or missionary organization. Meng and Li knew the dangers of serving Christ. Fully aware of the risks, they voluntarily decided to lay down their lives as faithful witnesses of Christ.”
According to Pastor Foley, Meng Lixi, who was 26 years old, was from Hubei Province, while Li Xinheng, who was 24 years old, was from Hunan Province, more than 300 kilometers from Hubei Province. They did not know each other before the trip to Pakistan. Li and Meng were co-workers in Christ.
“Meng Lisi was about to marry a man from her home province,” says Pastor Foley. “She went to church with her mother since she was little. She loved children and felt a special calling to share God’s love with children in Pakistan. So she went to study at the Department of Early Childhood Education at the College of Huazhong Normal University. After leaving school, she decided to study Urdu, the national language of Pakistan.”
Pastor Foley says that Li Xinheng graduated from Xi’an University of Electronic Science and Technology and joined the student body while at university: “After graduating, Li went to study at Zhejiang Missionary Seminary. He learned Arabic, Aramaic and English. Li learned to preach the gospel in Urdu.”
Pastor Foley says the Christian maturity of the two missionaries is evidenced by a video of their execution released by the Islamic State terrorist organization on June 8, 2017: “This video shows the last moment of their lives. They didn’t beg, cry or scream like naïve students or frightened language teachers. Until the last moment, they demonstrated dignity and endurance as faithful servants of Christ.
“Voice of Martyrs – Korea” posted a short video about the martyrdom of Meng and Li: