Government authorities in Shanxi, China, are ordering people who receive government assistance to replace religious symbols in their homes, including pictures of Jesus, with pictures of Chairman Mao and President Xi Jinping. Refusal to comply results in the assistance being taken away.
The religious freedom magazine Bitter Winter reported last week that officials in the city of Linfen, Shanxi province, were told in April to inspect and remove religious symbols from the homes of those receiving “social welfare payments” and to replace them with communist leaders. Those who complained would have their payments “annulled.”
The policy also applies to members of state-run churches. A member of the Three-Self Church, which is the Chinese Communist Party’s official Protestant denomination, told Bitter Winter that images of Jesus and a religious calendar were taken down from his house and replaced with images of Chairman Mao.
Like much of the world, the Chinese economy has been hard-hit by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, meaning that more and more people are relying on government payments to stay financially afloat. At the same time, the government has overseen a renewed crackdown on places of worship.
“Impoverished religious households can’t receive money from the state for nothing—they must obey the Communist Party for the money they receive,” the Three-Self member told Bitter Winter.
A preacher from a house church, which typically are illegal but tolerated in much of China, said that his cross and pictures of Jesus were removed in May and replaced with a picture of Chairman Mao.
“All impoverished households in the town were told to display Mao Zedong images,” the preacher told Bitter Winter. “The government is trying to eliminate our belief and wants to become God instead of Jesus.”
In addition to Shanxi, Christians in other provinces have reported similar treatment from government officials.
Read more at Catholic News Agency