While China’s notorious one-child policy is in the process of being reversed and the economy is increasingly run by free market-ish principles, China is still known for its civil rights and religious liberty abuses. Last year, the wife of a Chinese pastor was suffocated to death after a bulldozer buried her alive. She was attempting to stop the destruction of their church building. The case highlighted the lack of legal protection afforded Christians in China. Over the last few years, the Chinese government has systematically removed crosses from church buildings. China’s latest sign of religious intolerance is found in the atheistic government’s efforts to begin banning children from religious services.
According to a report in the Daily Mail:
Authorities in China have tightened their grip on the country’s churches by ordering that children are to be banned from joining religious groups. The ban also prohibits children from attending religious sermons and other activities in several provinces across the country.
The ban extends to church camps and Sunday school. At the moment, the ban hasn’t been instituted nationwide, but it is growing.
In a statement to the Daily Mail Online, Amnesty International’s William Nee surmised:
It could be that the government is concerned that young people going to church or religious activities may challenge their monopoly on truth and the government’s ability to instill its own historical narratives and worldview through the public education system.
Nee’s assessment appears to be in line with the official doctrine of the Chinese government concerning religion. Last year in a landmark speech on religion, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed the importance of the government and the government’s socialistic ideals, and the need to force religion to adhere to the government’s agenda.
Although Jinping’s speech was sprinkled with references to religious freedom and individual rights, the overall speech reveals that China is focused on making sure that churches and religious organizations do not contradict official Chinese government doctrines. In his speech, Jinping declared that churches must:
…merge religious doctrines with Chinese culture, abide by Chinese laws and regulations, and devote themselves to China’s reform and opening up drive and socialist modernization in order to contribute to the realization of the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation.
The speech was designed to rally CPC (Communist Party of China) members, especially those in authority, into encouraging religious people to pursue the aspects of their religion that align with the CPC and to discard the parts that are out of sync with the CPC. It would seem that the CPC has since determined that one of the best ways to achieve this is by making sure that children only receive official CPC training.
Human and religious rights organizations will be monitoring the Chinese government’s ban on children attending religious services and training. However, this troubling new curtailing of religious liberty in China should serve as a warning to Christians in the West. Governments know that state-sponsored education is the best way to control the country. Indoctrinate the kids, and eventually the citizens will fall in line. Protecting religious liberty is important for a number of reasons; what’s happening in China is proof.