Communist authorities are continuing to tighten their grip on practising Christians with at least four regional governments across China issuing notices that restrict children from joining Christian groups and attending religious activities.
The ban includes turning children away from churches even if they attend with their parents and teachers. Additionally, the ban includes promises that officials will launch investigations into both government approved churches and underground congregations who operate outside the tightly controlled official Beijing-run Catholic and Protestant churches.
The latest move comes as part of a concerted crackdown on religion that began with a three-year cross removal campaign in the Christian stronghold province of Zhejiang. The state’s move against religions became official last year when Chinese leader Xi Jinping instituted formal plans to “sinicize” religion with the intention of bringing more religious followers under the control of the ruling Communist Party, which itself is officially atheist and forbids members from practising.
“An emergency notice from the higher authorities strictly forbids all secondary and primary school teachers, students and toddlers to join Catholic or Protestant churches,” the school district of Yonglin in Wenzhou, eastern Zhejiang, said in a note to all primary schools, adult educational institutes and kindergartens.
Maria, a Catholic laywoman in the district who identified herself by her baptismal name, told ucanews.com that about her daughter’s teacher sent an audio and written message to the parents’ chat group “asking us not to bring children to the church.”
The teacher indicated the education bureau issued that instruction while adding that an inspection team would launch open and undercover investigations to find out how many children went to the church.
On Aug. 12, the local street committee office also sent officials to churches to persuade parents not to take their children there. However, Maria said, there were still many children participating in the procession for the feast of the Assumption of Mary, one of the four most important feasts for the China Church, on Aug. 15.
In another incident, a church-run summer camp that two Protestant classmates of her niece attended, was eventually disbanded and all participants sent home, Maria said.
“The move by the authorities is unnecessary. Even if they are not allowed to go to church, we parents can pass on our religious belief to our kids at home,” Maria said while admitting that recent events had her concerned.