In August over a hundred churches in Wenzhou, within the largely Christian Zhejiang province, received official “notices” that children will be banned from entering any church. Church leaders were told that minors would be turned away at the doors, even if accompanied by their parents.
The notices threaten Christians caught taking their child to services, stating that they “will be dealt with severely.”
Chinese authorities claim that church attendance thwarts minors from “develop(ing) a correct worldview and set of values.”
“Minors receiving religious education and formation too early in churches would seriously affect the normal implementation of the education system,” the Ouhai district’s notice explained.
Officials warned that government inspectors will “launch open and undercover investigations” on Sundays in both state-sanctioned churches and underground congregations to enforce the ban.
“There have also been attacks on Sunday school,” a pastor told the Vision Times. “It is very serious… This is very disrespectful to human rights, and we are firmly opposed… We really don’t know why authorities are doing this.”
In June, the Hunan capital of Changsha hosted an “emergency” meeting to “stabilize” Chinese schools. Education Bureau Director Liang Guochao said the government is going to “prevent religions infiltrating into schools and guide students to consciously resist religious cults.”
On top of forbidding children from attending church service, the new crackdown also forbids minors from joining any Christian group, from taking part in any religious activities, and from listening to sermons.
Teachers in schools are also banned from church attendance. The Yonglin district instructed schools that “the higher authorities strictly forbid all secondary and primary school teachers, students and toddlers to join Catholic or Protestant churches.”
“China is in the midst of a religious revival, and the current government seems concerned that religion could be a means through which foreign values may ‘penetrate’ into China and ultimately affect” the communist status quo, William Nee of Amnesty International explained about the bad.
“At this point, it is unclear how widespread the bans on children attending church services are in China, but these alarming reports seem to be coming in from fairly diverse areas throughout the country,” Nee cautioned.
Communist authorities have also dictated that Christians may no longer put on summer camps for children.
“Maria,” a Catholic mother, shared how a church camp in the Bameng Diocese of Wuhai was shut down. “A woman official asked lay people about the summer camp there without revealing her identity but she said she would like her son to join it. The Catholics did not know it was a trap and told her all the details,” she said. “Officials then questioned the priest…and forced (him) to disband the camp.”
“Even if they are not allowed to go to church, we parents can pass on our religious belief to our kids at home,” she said. She noted that many children participated in the procession for the feast of the Assumption of Mary on Aug. 15.
The persecution against Christians in China became more intense in 2014 when the government banned crosses in Zhejiang. By 2016, the plan to eradicate Christianity was official and open. Chinese leader Xi Jinping started a formal campaign to “sinicize” (make more Chinese) religion by enforcing atheism throughout the nation.