Chinese officials issued warnings to hundreds of churches that no child is allowed to enter a church or attend religious services, even with their parents.
Four regional governments began notifying churches of this new ban against children participating in religious activities as early as mid-August, according to Daily Mail. Hundreds of churches in China’s Zhejiang province received notices that not only banned children from entering churches, but also threatened that any believer caught taking a child to church “will be dealt with severely,” according to a report from Vision Times.
“Children in Wenzhou are not permitted to enter the church service, and there have also been attacks on Sunday school,” a pastor in the region told Vision Times. “It is very serious. If the adults go to church to worship, but the kids stay at home because we can’t bring them to the service, what can we do? This is very disrespectful to human rights, and we are firmly opposed. In this day and age, we really don’t know why authorities are doing this.”
The ban against children attending church also effectively reduces the number of attending adults, as parents are forced to stay home with their children.
Government officials also announced that they will launch investigations into both state-run and underground churches suspected of non-compliance with Beijing’s strict standards for government sanctioned Catholic and Protestant churches, according to UCA News. (Related: China To Ensure That Catholic Leadership Is In Beijing’s Control)
“At this point its 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,” William Nee of Amnesty International told Daily Mail.
“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 political stability,” Nee added.
The new government restriction on religious activity is only the latest in a series of moves to exert strict control and limitations on Christians and Muslims throughout China under President Xi Jinping’s administration.
The Jinping administration’s crackdown on Christians began three years ago in the Zhejiang province when the government began removing crosses from Christian churches on the grounds that they did not conform to government regulations concerning buildings. The government removed a total of 360 crosses and demolished three churches.
The crackdown continued with new religious regulations designed to bring religions in China in line with Communist party control, under the guise of “sinicizing (making more Chinese)” religion. Authorities have also arrested, openly and secretly, various church leaders and subjected them to torture.
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