China’s communist regime has unleashed what many are calling the harshest crackdown on Christian families in 40 years by targeting children.
Under the strict rule of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the totalitarian nation has enacted laws that severely impact everyday people in China for practicing Christianity. Under a recently passed measure, children are now banned from attending Sunday school.
“Pastors are under pressure. Religious Affairs Bureau are telling them you can’t do Sunday School. Another had a sign posted saying ‘No Sunday School allowed’ or ‘No children allowed’ posted on the doors of the church,” Erik Burklin of the China Partner missionary organization said. “Anybody can go to church, but the church cannot proselytize anybody under the age of 18. But practically, I see a lot of young people go to church, even after this law has been enforced. The challenge for the government is how they try to enforce.”
Before the anti-Christian President Xi seized nearly absolute power in China, children routinely attended Sunday school to learn Bible verses and sing hymns. Prohibiting children from entering a church places a strain on parents who might not have a daycare in place. The long-term goal of the Asian superpower is to eradicate Christian education and replace it with communist-only ideas.
“The Bible says train up a child in the way they should go and when they are old, they will not depart from it,” Voice of the Martyrs USA Spokesperson Todd Nettleton said. “The Chinese government, the Communist Party leaders, are very aware of that as well, and they want to train up a child to be a good Communist.”
China has already put a social credit system in place to monitor and pressure its citizens to be compliant communists first and foremost. By watching and quantifying every action taken in daily life and online, Chinese citizens are scored. Their social score determines employment, whether they are allowed to buy a home, and even where their children can attend school. Christian faith and activities diminish their scores and make life in China increasingly difficult.
While the regime appears to at least tolerate Christians, China has required Protestants to practice only in sanctioned and regulated houses of worship under the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. If pastors are even remotely critical of the atheist communist power-structure, they are subject to arrest and persecution. Congregations such as Early Rain Covenant Church that refuse to follow government rules and oversight remain in imminent danger.
Early Rain Pastor Liao Qiang and his 23-year-old daughter, Ren Ruiting, have been under constant scrutiny, and he was detained after holding a vigil on June 4 commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. Pastor Liao continued to preach in public after the Chinese government shuttered his church. Government officials said his safety could not be guaranteed unless he submitted to online surveillance. Police also tried to coerce him to sign a statement denouncing his church. He was forced to flee to Taiwan under threat of being put into a re-education camp.
“That’s when I knew it was no longer safe for us here, and that my children were most in danger,” Liao said at the small Reformed Presbyterian Xinan Church in Taipei. “If our elders decided to break up the church, then I can accept it. But it’s not up to you to say it’s evil or illegal.”
China has been rounding up outspoken Christians. At least 100 members of the Early Rain church have been arrested and removed from their homes since December. The Xi regime appears to be facing pressure to crack down on people of faith who recognize God as the supreme moral being, and not the secular Communist Party. The pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and Taiwan’s increasingly bold refusal to suffer Beijing’s rule or secularize its citizens are widely considered direct challenges to the communist leadership.
“God is in control, God loves the Chinese people, and in spite of all this, the church will grow,” Burklin reportedly said about China’s persecution of Christians. Quoting Matthew, he said, “Jesus said, ‘I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.’”