By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
We have always heard that “the pen is mightier than the sword,” and I believe that’s true. Martin Luther penned his 95 theses, nailed them on the door of the castle church at Wittenberg, Germany, and the course of history was changed by way of a movement now called the Reformation. The framers of Declaration of Independence as well as the United States Constitution wrangled over what to commit to parchment, and they chose that expensive option because parchment was carefully crafted from animal skins for the use of creating and preserving important legal documents. And, each one of these documents was handwritten with great attention to detail.
So, who would have ever dreamed that a blank piece of paper (and not necessarily very expensive paper at that) would become the symbol of speaking volumes for millions of Chinese citizens? Tens of thousands of mostly young Chinese people across several cities have held up what is known in the paper industry as “A4,” or a standard 8 ½” x 11” sheet of letterhead/printer paper sideways across their faces, much to the outrage of the powers that be. Why? They have had it with being tied up in knots with China’s COVID policy. If they are caught by the drones that fly over their dwellings without a mask on, they can be arrested and “vanish.”
Some are calling this the “A4 Revolution,” and as of this writing, it seems to be gathering steam. The idea behind using blank pieces of paper as a means of expressing protest actually started in Hong Kong in 2020, and it has spread. The thinking is that if you are not actually saying anything on the piece of paper, you can’t be arrested, but that simply is not true.
What are they protesting? Communism. For what are they longing? Freedom. Liberty. Democracy. Essentially, they want the things that we are allowing to slip through our fingers. One of the most interesting things I learned during my time in Iraq is that there is something universal in the hearts of humans everywhere that cries out for freedom, for a sense of agency, the opportunity to breathe freely, and that longing transcends religion, gender, education, and socio-economic status. There were Iraqis who went and lived in the desert and waited for the Americans to return to liberate them as had been promised in the Gulf War. They knew they couldn’t stand up to Saddam alone, and they were willing to do anything to help the Coalition just to have a taste of what we take for granted and are in the process of discarding.
It is worth noting that just prior to Mao taking over China in the late 1940s, there was a remarkable revival that prepared and strengthened the leaders of the Chinese underground church for any and all persecution. From then until now, the underground church has remained strong. And I have a feeling that we will see a rebirth spiritually of a whole new generation of Chinese believers. I do know this: prayer changes nations, and it is time for us to fight for China on our knees and in our prayer closets. If we can’t be bothered, or think that the whole idea of praying for a country with the idea of changing it is pretty silly, we do so at our own peril.