- - Sunday, June 13, 2021

Christians in China are increasingly persecuted by a regime intent on extinguishing not only their ability to practice their faith but the very faith itself. To these ends, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities aim to replace Jesus with their leader, Xi Jinping.  

Those who do not fully conform to this abominable perversion of Christianity and other restrictions on the faithful suffer violent destruction of their church properties and homes, prohibition on religious training and worship for children under 18, radically increased surveillance, and the detention of pastors, elders and congregants.

Why is the CCP focused on blotting out Christianity? The Chinese Communists fear the rapid growth of the Christian faith. The CCP’s official data acknowledge the PRC has 38 million Protestants and 10-12 million Catholics. International observers estimate the true number of Christians in China as far greater, between 100-120 million.

U.S.-based religious-rights watchdog, ChinaAid, details the Communist Party’s effort to eliminate Christianity in a report released in April. For example:

• The state-run religious authorities — the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) — labored in 2020 to impose new theology, tenets and practices as part of the CCP’s larger effort to “Sinicize” all religions, and conform them to the Communist vision of China, wherein the state is central and Mr. Xi alone is worshipped. 

• CCP authorities published textbooks in which, for instance, a well-known Biblical passage (John Chapter 8) is perverted to portray Jesus as a sinner and murderer instead of a merciful savior. Book-sellers are compelled to vandalize and censor Christian publications, notably by removing or covering the name “Jesus” with the Chinese symbols for “JD,” short for “ji du,” which is defined as “to hate, or to envy.” The words “God” and “Lord” are censored. Bibles in print or digital form are confiscated or deleted. Online church services or studies are banned.

• Thousands of churches have been destroyed and desecrated by the Chinese Communists (in Jiangsu Providence alone, an estimated 90 percent of the house churches have been razed). Religious imagery inside is replaced with images of Mr. Xi, and crucifixes or crosses are forcibly removed. In their place, church leaders must hang the Chinese flag. These same mandates extend to the private homes of believers.

• More and more, ordinary Chinese Christians are marginalized from society. In Yunnan province, villagers of Huangfei Zhai were told that if they do not “renounce their religion and deny Jesus,” authorities would make them “suffer consequences,” including confiscating their rice paddies. Believers are subject to search and seizure of property.

Men, women, and children are stalked by plainclothes officers, blacklisted by authorities and denied employment, education, rental contracts or service at hotels, restaurants and other places of business. During COVID-19 lockdowns, some church leaders and their families were confined to their homes and denied the barcodes needed to shop for food or other necessities. 

• The long list of jailed clerics (like Early Rain Church pastor Wang Yi), human rights activists and lawyers grows by the day. 

• Congregant’s faces are captured by surveillance cameras newly mandated to be installed inside places of worship. Only “approved participants” are allowed entry. If found gathering without approval, they are subject to extended periods of interrogation, torture and lengthy “administrative detentions.”

Prisoners are denied visits by family members and legal advisers; many are simply “disappeared.” Detainees also report police are collecting blood samples and other biometric information — a serious red flag for those who may be subjected to China’s criminal forced-organ-harvesting of religious dissidents and prisoners of conscience. 

Forced to redefine its faith, the Church in China has gone to ground once more. Stripped of their fundamental human rights, Chinese Christians rely on world leaders and international organizations to rally to their cause and defend their right to exist. 

Their stories will be told at this year’s First Annual International Religious Freedom Summit set to convene in Washington, D.C., from July 13-15. The event brings together present and former government officials, religious freedom activists and witnesses to persecution from around the world united by a shared determination to illuminate and counter intensifying repression on freedom of religion or belief not only in Communist China but in a record number of countries worldwide.

China’s state-sponsored, genocidal war on religious liberty demands particular attention and urgent international action. The CCP must be held accountable and suffer real costs for such crimes against its own citizens and globally. China must not be allowed to brutally wipe out Christians, Muslims and other faith communities with impunity. Some sort of boycott for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing would be a good start.

• Sam Brownback formerly served as U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom. Dede Laugesen is executive director of Save the Persecuted Christians.

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