Amid Government Crackdown, Chinese Christians Press On

ICC Note: Across China, the government is tightening up its grip on religion, with an aim to “Sinicize” different faiths and “get rid of foreign influence.” Churches constantly face demolition, harassment, and threats from the authorities. Yet Chinese Christians press on and continue to share their faith despite the hardships.

08/07/2018 China (Sydney Morning Herald) – The 62-year-old Chinese shopkeeper had waited nearly his entire adult life to see his dream of building a church come true – a brick house with a sunny courtyard and spacious hall with room for 200 believers.

But in March, about a dozen police officers and local officials suddenly showed up at the church on his property and made the frightened congregants disperse. They ordered that the cross, a painting of the Last Supper and Bible verse calligraphy be taken down. And they demanded that all services stop until each person, along with the church itself, was registered with the government, said the shopkeeper, Guo.

Without warning, Guo and his neighbors in China’s Christian heartland province of Henan had found themselves on the front lines of an ambitious new effort by the officially atheist ruling Communist Party to dictate – and in some cases displace – the practice of faith in the country.

“I’ve always prayed for our country’s leaders, for our country to get stronger,” said Guo, who gave only his last name out of fear of government retribution. “They were never this severe before, not since I started going to church in the ’80s. Why are they telling us to stop now?”

Under President Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, believers are seeing their freedoms shrink dramatically even as the country undergoes a religious revival. Experts and activists say that as he consolidates his power, Xi is waging the most severe systematic suppression of Christianity in the country since religious freedom was written into the Chinese constitution in 1982.

The crackdown on Christianity is part of a broader push by Xi to “Sinicise” all the nation’s religions by infusing them with “Chinese characteristics” such as loyalty to the Communist Party. Islamic crescents and domes have been stripped from mosques, and a campaign has been launched to “re-educate” tens of thousands of Uighur Muslims. Tibetan children have been moved from Buddhist temples to schools and banned from religious activities during their summer holidays, state-run media report.

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