The Boxer Rebellion

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The Boxer Rebellion, 1899-1901

The Boxer Rebellion was an anti-foreign/Christian movement by the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists in China. In response to imperialist expansion and missionary evangelism, local organizations began to emerge in Shandong in 1898. At first, they were suppressed by the Qing Dynasty but later, the Empress Dowager tried to expel western influence from China with aggressions aimed towards foreign missionaries. Boxers across North China attacked mission compounds killing foreign missionaries and Chinese Christians.

In the summer of 1900, 239 missionaries were martyred in China in what is known as the Boxer Rebellion. Of these, 189 were Protestant and 40 were Catholic. The two mission societies with the greatest toll of martyrs were the China Inland Mission, now called Overseas Missionary Fellowship, and The Christian and Missionary Alliance. The CIM (OMF) lost 79, and the C&MA lost 36. Each of these missionaries was committed to serving the Lord in China to bring hope and light to her millions.

Many things contributed to this mass slaughter of foreign missionaries, the largest ever such martyrdom in the history of Christian missions. China was in the throes of upheaval. The Manchu Dynasty, of Mongolian origin, was a very unpopular dynasty tottering on the brink of overthrow.

Discontent began to sweep through the land and threaten the Empress Dowagers dynasty. The people cried out for China to rid itself of all foreign influence, both Western imperialism and the Manchu dynasty. The Empress managed, however, to turn the people’s revolt against westerners and particularly missionaries. She convinced the people that the disasters in China were the result of turning away from the old Chinese religion for the new foreign one. The spirits were angry because ancestor worship was being neglected. Believing that Western bullets could not hurt them, and under the influence of drugs and Satan, the Boxers, mostly young men, set out to rid China of all foreigners. The Empress threw her lot in with the Boxers and decreed that foreigners in China be killed.

Not only were missionaries killed, but also numerous Chinese pastors lost their lives as well as more than 32,000 Christians. Like the martyrs of Hebrews 11, they were all champions of the faith and valiant ambassadors of Jesus Christ. This mass martyrdom of missionaries and Christians ushered in the most violent century of persecution of the Christian church. Below are the stories of Alliance missionaries who perished in the uprising.

History of the C&MA Swedish missionaries in China

In 1893 a group of approximately 50 Swedish missionaries went to China to give the gospel to the unreached. Rev. William Emanuel Franken of Sweden sent them out with the understanding that The Christian and Missionary Alliance would provide transportation and support. An Alliance missionary Emanuel Olsson a China missionary himself, was selected to be their Superintendent. The October 20th 1900 Alliance Magazine had the following article.

These Swedish missionaries were earnest, self-denying workers who offered their services to the Alliance under the direction of a devoted and remarkable missionary named Emannel Olsson. They expressed their willingness to live on an extremely moderate allowance not exceeding two hundred dollars a year. Several parties were sent to northern China. Their field was a vast neglected district lying beyond the Great Wall of China. They numbered in the beginning over fifty missionaries and have occupied nearly twenty different stations, covering a district several hundred miles in extent. They were zealous, humble, self-denying missionaries. The arrangement was subject to one great disadvantage. That they were foreigners who had not been known by the home Board and people, and it has therefore been difficult to establish as complete relations of fellowship and cooperation as in the case of the missionaries who have gone from our own Training Institute and out of our midst. Their work has been much blessed and they have won the right to deep affection. Their superintendent, Rev. Emil Olsson and wife were American Swedes and were workers of a very high order of ability widely known in the Northwest.

Letter from Mr. Carl Lundberg

from Kwei, Hua-Cheng sent to the Holy Union Mission in Sweden. Dated August 16, 1900.

Dear Pastor Kilstet,

How wonderful is the Lord in all His doings! Who is able to understand His ways? Dear Mission Friends, you have probably heard how the storms of persecution have broken out in China, and have also reached up to Shansi to your field of labor and ours of the C&MA, and the C. I. M. have also gotten their share of it. After Mr. Lundeberg told how the ten missionaries of the Holy Union Mission were killed, and amongst them Mr. and Mrs. Forsberg, of our mission, and their child—the missionaries were stoned and the child torn in pieces. The riot began in Kwei-Hua-Cheng where we were, so we left the place and thought to go to Urza, and over to Russia, but when we were two days journey from Kwei Thea, all of our things were stolen from us, the robbers attacking us eight times. They took some of our clothing from our bodies so we had to suffer both hunger and cold. Four Catholic missionaries at that place heard about us and sent messengers after us to bring us here. The last messenger found us and we have been here eight days, but here also there is great danger. The Boxers are coming to destroy the place. Many Catholic settlements were spoiled and thousands of Chinese were killed and our station we know was destroyed.

We do not know anything about the other missionaries, but with us here of the C&MA Mr. and Mrs. Emil Olson and their three children, Mr. and Mrs. Edvin Andersson, and their two children, Miss Emilie Erickson, and Mrs. Carl Lundberg and their children. If we should not come out with our lives then please send our last message to all mission friends. We live and die for the Lord and China. The way to the coast is not open. We have not heard anything from Peking for nearly two months, but the way to the Lord is open, thanks be to Him. Let not your hands fail and do not lose your courage. What we sow shall bear fruit in its time. When the storm is over send out other witnesses to China to proclaim the great act of the Lord. I do not regret that I came to China. I know the Lord called me here, and his grace is enough for me. The way he leadeth is the best, His will be done. We shall meet at his right hand.

August 22, 1900

Now the soldiers come and they are going to attack us here today. The Catholics are going to defend themselves but it seems of no use, we do not want to die with weapons in our hands. If God permits they may take our lives. We die with faith in the Lord and know that He can save our souls without trusting in the Catholic Church. The priests asked us yesterday if we were willing to enter or be connected with the only saving church, and if we were not afraid if we had gone wrong, and should not be saved, but we all answered that we know in whom we believed, and that we were not uncertain and that we would die as protestants, yes, as Christians. God bless you all. We will meet with Jesus.

Yours, happy in Jesus, Carl L. Lundberg.

The Boxer Rebellion

Like rain clouds that at first are little, but soon grow to be great and dark clouds, which conceal the clear blue heavens and discharge in lightning, thunder and great rain so broke out in the summer of 1900 the storm in North China which is usually called the “Boxer Rebellion.”

The Boxers (I-ho-t’uan), as they call themselves, have their origin among the mountains in the province of Shantung. Members participate in a type of gymnastics and consider themselves possessed of spirits, which give them magical powers. The sect was condemned by Emperor Kia-ching around 1810 in a public edict. The recent leaders have encouraged the movement, while the followers program is “Preserve the power of the Manchu dynasty and root out all foreigners from China.”

The Boxers were encouraged by Yonglu (vice-king of Chihli) and prince Tuan of Peking, who wanted to gain power and prestige by deposing the emperor. The emperor (Uhsein) was leaning toward inviting foreigners into the land to industrialize China.

They began a program of instilling hatred toward liberals and foreigners. In 1898 a coup in Peking took place where the emperor was deposed and the “widow-empress” took reign. There was reason to believe that the empress was mentally handicapped and could easily be swayed by her supporters.

The empress and her following believed that the emperor and his party had received their liberal ideas from the West by studying their literature and listening to foreigners. Thus, a cruel following broke out against the Reform party of the emperor and most of the leading party officials were killed. The empress signed an edict allowing the army to kill all supporters of the emperor and all foreigners in China. Thus began the Boxer Rebellion.

The army, usually commanded by Boxers, or sympathizers, swept thru China murdering all foreigners as well as Chinese that had associated with them. There was great army support as they could keep any belongings of the foreigners that they killed.

Of the foreigners who were murdered, 135 protestant missionaries and approximately 51 of their children were murdered. Of these, 41 Swedish missionaries together with 15 children died. Of those in the Christian and Missionary Alliance, 21 missionaries and 14 children, of the Holiness Alliance 10 missionaries, of the Scandinavian Alliance Mongol Mission 5 missionaries and of the China Island Mission 2 missionaries.

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