China is ruled by a Communist Party, which is officially atheist. As such, an effort to limit the influence of Christianity has led to restrictions on teaching the Word of God as well as warnings against embracing the ‘Western’ mindset of Christianity.
Despite these brutal restrictions, Christian educators are bravely defying their government and promising to continue teaching Sunday school courses.
Although Chinese law officially grants religious freedom to everyone, including children, there are regulations in place to protect minors. These regulations forbid religions from coercing a child to believe in their ideals; however, despite the religious freedom granted by Chinese law, in September of 2017, new rules were released that expand the state’s ability to supervise religious education throughout the nation.
This follows an earlier crackdown in 2014, when China’s government decided to launch the “Three Rectification and One Demolition” beautification campaign. This campaign was used to tear down crosses and demolish ‘illegal’ churches throughout the city of Wenzhou, which, due to its substantial Christian community, is considered “China’s Jerusalem.”
Wenzhou sits at the forefront of the growing tensions between devout Christians who want to continue teaching children the Word of God and the government of China.
With more than 1,200 crosses removed from places of worship, Christians began to openly condemn the ongoing persecution: These Christians were arrested for speaking out. Many of these individuals, which include pastors, activists and even lawyers, are still detained. In addition, the human rights attorneys providing legal support to the Christian churches in China have become the victims of police brutality, and are being pressured to confess that they have jeopardized China’s national security, and disturbed the peace. These confessions are broadcast via television to the citizens of China.
Once the Sunday School ban went into effect, Wenzhou’s churches began teaching children about the Word of God in private homes. Some moved classes to Saturday, while others billed these classes as daycare.
One parent, who, due to the sensitivity of the matter, preferred to use her surname, which is Chen, told Reuters that faith comes first in her house and grades come second. Chen is one of the many wealthy Christians in Wenzhou who proclaim that the state fails to provide their children with sufficient spiritual and moral guidance, which is why they need to attend Bible classes.
Chen also states that video games are seductive and porn, drugs, violence, and gambling are serious problems for the youth of today. Furthermore, since parents cannot be by their child’s side at all times, she believes that through faith they can make their child understand (the right thing to do). In addition, Chen states that there will be more Christians in the next generation as the Christian faith is inherited and then passed on from one generation to the next.
Chinese officials warned Christian parents that unless they discontinue taking their children to non-government approved churches, their children will be banned from serving in the military or attending college. Additionally, the children will face legal action.
One of the churches approved by the government is the Protestant Church Three-Self Patriotic Movement. This government-sanctioned church prohibits its members from bringing children to religious activities or ‘brainwashing’ teenagers through religious beliefs.
In 2015, foreign scholars estimated that there were from 67 million to 100 million Christians residing in China. According to estimations from Yang Fenggang, who is the director of the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University, by the year 2030, China will be home to 250 million Christians.
The provinces of Fujian, Henan, Zhejiang and Inner Mongolia have banned children from participating in faith activities, including summer camp. While the government tries to control religious education, many Christians believe that letting the party control religious education is not acceptable, because this action requires that the party be put ahead of God.
~ 1776 Christian