The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has always persecuted religious adherents. Christians have faced huge struggles in the country since the religion is seen as “foreign” and “invasive” in origin. Recently, the state took down a painting of the Virgin Mary, replacing it with a picture of President Xi Jinping.
Bringing down the Madonna
The incident took place at the True Origin Catholic church in the eastern province of Jiangxi. In addition to removing the Madonna painting, the authorities also insisted that Chinese flags and nationalist slogans that support the CCP be put up. Officials confiscated the keys to the church, due to which believers had no place to pray together or hold their religious service. Members raised over US$140,000 in donations to construct the church. In September, authorities demanded the church members paint over the sign with the name of the church on it and replace it with the slogan “Follow the party, thank the party, obey the party.”
Other Catholic churches in the province have also been facing increasing persecution from state authorities. Officials from the religious affairs department have ordered all crosses and religious banners to be removed from unofficial Catholic meeting places, installing portraits of Mao Zedong and Xi Jinping instead. Older believers have been threatened with pension cancellation should they continue attending the unofficial churches.
According to Beijing, any Catholic church that is not a member of the state-backed Patriotic Catholic Association will be designated as a cult, as a result of which they will have to face several harsh measures from the state. This crackdown on “cult” churches has strengthened ever since Beijing signed a deal with the Vatican in September last year that gave the CCP the right to appoint bishops.
In some parts of the country, the Chinese regime is changing the Bible itself, essentially transforming Christianity into communist ideology. In the province of Henan, churches have been pressured to remove the Ten Commandments. Instead, they have been asked to use quotes from President Xi.
“Churches that have not obeyed have been shut down. Other churches who have refused have been informed that their congregants will be blacklisted. Should this happen, affected Christians will be restricted through travel, education, and employment by the Chinese authorities,” according to CHVN Radio.
Many Chinese Christians go to great lengths to ensure that they comply with state policies so that they can pray in peace. However, officials still end up demolishing churches of such believers for no reason at all. Recently, the West Street Christian Church was given a notice by the ethnic and religious affairs department, accusing it of destroying financial records to hide possible fraud. The pastor of the church was arrested earlier this year and is awaiting sentencing.
“On Feb. 21, our church cross was torn down, the doors of our church were closed, and the national flag was flown there on the same day… We received news two days ago that they are demolishing the church… Our church went through all the legal procedures for official recognition as a religious venue, but now they want our land, and our church workers are working hard to communicate with the government about it,” a member of the church said to Radio Free Asia.
In some churches, traditional Christian worship songs have been banned. Instead, the followers have been asked to sing state-sanctioned patriotic hymns. According to Open Doors USA, China has been ranked number 27 on its list of countries where Christians face the most severe persecution.