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At the time that Bernhard died in China, I was also operating an Internet discussion forum. I was so linked to the people on this site that within in ten minutes of learning of the death of my son I was on the computer inputting the message: The Chinese authorities have killed my son.
I was blessed by the concern and interest that the participants in the form showed me as they, too, participated in my sons tragic death. They good people became even more important to me after my husband left for China on 26 December, leaving me alone at home. It was through my communication with these good people that I was able to voice my sorrow and to share my mourning for my son.
Surprises never cease to amaze, do they? A week after my sons death, on 2 January 2007, someone who had never written before on the forum site wrote the following ominous message:
Read this date: - - - - Someone killed on this day Bernhard - - - -
22 December 2006 here in China. A group of policemen accompanied by others broke into the house of a missionary (underground) church. The police mistreated those assembled there, arresting most of them, according to the Rome-based news service, Asia News.
Shortly before the invasion of the underground church in Beijing, two Christian religious leaders from Xiao Shan were arrested because they had protested publicly against the destruction of their church.
--- This all happened in Beijing and Bernhard may have been involved in this somehow!
This message was found on Vatican Radio on 22 December 2006.
I began to search other sites to see what reports could be found. At www.chinaaid.org (a site that regularly reports about the persecution of Christians in China) I found a similar message. Here there was also mentioned a reference to the Haidian District where Bernhard had lived.
Through these sites I was able to learn that there had been numerous regular raids on religious services as well as on houses where regular, secret church services were held. The Chinese authorities filmed these raids and all present were required to present their passports, some were mistreated, beaten or tortured and many were also arrested (some for long periods of incarceration).
Chinaaid.org for example on 27 January 2007 described a practice that I knew nothing about previously: A church service in a house-church was raided by authorities from the local police station (known as the Public Security Bureau (PSB)). Three Christians were taken to the police station for questioning and then released. At the same time there were warned once again not to conduct meetings without permission from the state.
CAA has learned local police raided a house church worship service in Zhangchong Township, Jinzhai County, Anhui province on January 24, 2007. Three Christians were taken to the police station and released after interrogation.
According to eyewitnesses, the raid happened around 10:00 AMwhen some Christians were having their worship service. Policemen from the County Public Security Bureau (PSB), local police station, county criminal police squad, and officers from the county Religious Affair Administrative Bureau broke into the house. They took pictures of every Christian in the room and asked for their names and identities.
The police then released most of the Christians and took three church leaders to the police station for interrogation. The police confiscated Bibles, hymn books, acoustic equipment, a blackboard, and the tither box without any legal procedure.
The police warned the three church leaders that they are not allowed to gather without the registration to the government.
The Protestant news agency IDEA reported on 3 January 2007 that 2000-3000 secret house-churches existed in Beijing. The agency further reported the words of one such church representative who said:
The police know about our house-churches but they do not harass us. They do watch us closely. They warned us never to admit foreigners or to grow too large. The representative continued: Some provinces, however, take firm action against all house-churches. According to the US aid organization China Aid from May 2005 through May 2006 in fifteen of the provinces, nearly 2,000 Christians were arrested.
An interesting point to note - ten days after Bernhard's death: "they warned us never to admit foreigners."
We were still living within a world of shock and sorrow in the days following Bernhards sudden death. Bernhards father returned to Germany with our sons ashes but he returned home with only questions. We were perplexed, no one explained anything to us about Bernhards last hours on earth. We now faced an impenetrable wall as tall and as thick as the Great Wall of China itself.
It was at this time that we began a long search. First we began to search through the Internet to see what we could learn about our sons death. Later we turned to what we could see in real time. My husband had brought home with him from China all of the documents, papers, and notes found there. We could find a translator from Chinese, which Bernhard used for his note taking, into German.
I began to read in Bernhards diaries and found several hints. These showed, for example, that he had multiple contacts with everyday Chinese who were preparing for Christian baptism. This was quite interesting as the law forbids Christian Chinese from having any contact with foreigners for any purpose. We also found some email addresses in his diaries. Once we found these, I wrote to each address asking them to be in contact with me about Bernhard Wilden.
Very few accepted this invitation. In mid-August 2007 we received a postcard from Beijing. It was addressed to our son. The message was in Chinese but the letter was visible. We felt that most likely this person did not know of Bernhards death and could not be of any help to us but we answered it in English all the same. At the same time we were in contact with someone who had searched the building where Bernhard had died and he sent a series of photos of all aspects of it so that we would know what it looked like.
We also were able to find someone who could repair Bernhards cell phone so that it became operational again. Thus we were able to gain access to his cell phone directory and all the recent calls that he had made. This also gave us access to his SMS system.
Bernhards father planned another trip to Beijing. For this trip in 2007, my husband hired a private interpreter to accompany him.
My husband left for China the day after what would have been our sons twenty-fifth birthday which we celebrate in great sorrow at his grave on 26 November 2007 by lighting 25 votive candles set around his grave.