Persecution within China has been intensifying since President Xi secured the unanimous support of the ruling Communist Party.
Xi is the first leader to achieve unanimous support since Chairman Mao, and it is no coincidence that church leaders in some regions say persecution is at its worst levels since Mao’s rule in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
In some areas, the atheist Communist Party is competing with Christianity for influence. By some estimates, Christians in China actually outnumber the 90 million members of the Communist Party, which may have led to the current crackdown on believers. Many have predicted that the situation will only worsen for Christians, with one AsiaLink partner suggesting that much ministry to the country may soon come to an end.
This intensifying persecution can be seen in the varied tactics employed by the Chinese government to combat the spread of the gospel. Hundreds of foreign Christians, including students, businessmen and teachers among others, were expelled from the country after having their visas revoked. Discrimination followed and many Christians lost their jobs or were barred from entering universities.
Last year, in southern China, police visited members of churches at their homes, warning them not to attend worship services. Officers also summoned many of them for questioning. Elsewhere, children were specifically prohibited from attending church services and many Sunday Schools were shut down.
It seems that the government’s main intention is to prevent the passing down of the faith to children and young people in the hope that Christianity will die out in the land.
Believers have been urged to replace religious artefacts in their homes with posters of President Xi. Thousands of Christians in an impoverished county in the South East were swapping their faith–themed posters with those featuring the President. This came in response to a local government relief scheme which is seeking to transform believers in Christ to believers in the Party.
Most recently, China restricted access to God’s Word by banning many major online retailers from selling Bibles, whilst still allowing the sale of holy texts belonging to other major religions. Perhaps even more seriously, many church leaders and evangelists have disappeared after being taken by authorities.
This is one of the most powerful countries on earth, wielding great influence in Asia and on the world stage. Often, in order to maintain good relations, smaller countries in Asia will begin to copy China’s actions and policies.
Persistent prayer is required for China and for the millions of believers who live there.
Join us in praying for those facing this persecution and for those with the power to improve freedom of religion for Christians in China.
This article was first published in the AsiaLink Magazine.