China has taken extreme measures to wipe out all traces of Christianity in the country, by tearing down posters of Jesus and replacing them with images of President Xi Jinping.
The country’s ruling Communist party has chosen to eradicate the faith amongst its 1.38 billion residents, going as far as banning children from visiting churches.
For the government, China’s Christian community has long been a source of embarrassment, resulting in bans on the Bible and on public displays of the cross.
Church leadership is also required to request approval from the Communist party and even church teachings must now be in line with party ideals, reports the New Zealand Herald.
The crackdown has been mainly imposed in China’s Xinjiang province, on the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan, with officials saying the region is “not Chinese enough”.
It has become the primary focus of President Xi’s plans to eradicate “differences” between Chinese communities across the entire country.
He insists that “Chinese characteristics” must be incorporated into all activities, beliefs and traditions; chief among them being unwavering loyalty to the Communist party.
In April, China’s religious affairs department published an article saying that churches must endorse the party’s leadership as part of “Sinicization.”
The article stated: “Only Sinicized churches can obtain God’s love.”
The move is part of Beijing’s “Principle for Promoting Chinese Christianity in China for the Next Five Years (2018-2022)” plan, which details how it will “Sinicize” Christianity within its borders.
Within hours of the declaration, censors moved in to eradicate Christianity.
Bibles were seized and banned, and digital versions can no longer be found online.
Only an officially approved version from the government-sanctioned open church is available.
Images of Christ have already been replaced with posters of President Xi and Christian children are no longer allowed to attend church.
Qi Yan, a member of the township party committee said: “Through our thought reform, they’ve voluntarily done it.
“The move is aimed at Christian families in poverty, and we educated them to believe in science and not in superstition, making them believe in the party.”
One Beijing pastor refuted these claims, saying:
“A lot of our flock are terrified by the pressure that the government is putting on them.
“It’s painful to think that in our own country’s capital, we must pay so dearly just to practice our faith.”
Hundreds of small and private churches have been shut down and for those who have resisted, life has already become difficult.
Many of China’s Christian communities have responded in a time-honoured fashion by continuing their congregational worship in secret.
Beijing sees Christianity as a Western threat, and its 67 million followers as infected by dangerous Western ideals.
President Xi stated in 2016: “We must resolutely guard against overseas infiltrations via religious means.”
Xi Lian, a scholar of Christianity in China at Duke University said: “Chinese leaders have always been suspicious of the political challenge or threat that Christianity poses to the Communist regimen.
“Under Xi, this fear of Western infiltration has intensified and gained a prominence that we haven’t seen for a long time.”
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
August 15th, 2018