3 Things you Should know About Religious Freedom and the Church in China

Here are three things you should know about the new threats to religious liberty that our Chinese brothers and sisters in Christ are facing today.

In September, China finally nailed down religious restrictions introduced last year. The numerous regulations, made in the name of national security, prohibit unregistered groups from teaching about religion or taking part in trainings or meetings outside the country (like the Thailand conference), beginning in February 2018.

 

Refined by the fire. This has been the history of the church in China. Since the rise of the atheist Communist Party, Chinese Christians have faced incredible persecution at the hands of their government. Yet, the church has persisted and its numbers have grown exponentially. Today, the Chinese church is thought to have anywhere from 70 to 115 million members.

Over the last 30 years, the Communist Party has gradually released its grip on religious groups, allowing many underground churches to begin to peek their heads up from their hiding places, even buying church buildings, putting up crosses, and building websites.

But over the last few months, a shift back toward a strict centralized control of religion has occurred. Here are three things you should know about the new threats to religious liberty that our Chinese brothers and sisters in Christ are facing today.

1. In the name of national security, the Chinese government is once again clamping down on religious freedom.

This fall the Chinese government passed a new set of rules regulating religious affairs. The regulations, which will be implemented beginning February 2, place severe restrictions on unregistered religious groups.

Christianity Today details the new regulations:

In September, China finally nailed down religious restrictions introduced last year. The numerous regulations, made in the name of national security, prohibit unregistered groups from teaching about religion or taking part in trainings or meetings outside the country (like the Thailand conference), beginning in February 2018.

In addition, no religious activities—including the publication of religious materials, the acceptance of donations, any international religious exchanges, and renting space to an unregistered church—can happen without the approval of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA). (. . .)

The new rules come down especially hard on religious schools—requiring them to apply for government approval, have their own funding and facilities, and hire full-time staff.

The Chinese government claims that these new regulations are necessary to protect against Islamic extremism, but Christian leaders fear their effect will force the church back underground. The vast majority of churches in China today are unregistered in order to protect themselves from the control and influence of the communist government, so the new regulations are sure to drastically affect the church.

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