To stifle faith in the cradle, the CCP bans church-run education of children, implements measures to prevent minors from having any contacts with churches.
by Yang Xiangwen
The Chinese government doesn’t tolerate church-established schools, because it believes that through them, religious groups are obstructing the communist regime from training its loyal successors. Therefore, church schools are often subjected to crackdowns, which especially intensified after the new Regulations on Religious Affairs came into effect in 2018. Considered as China’s Catholic heartland, the northern province of Hebei has been hit especially hard.
In 2010, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Xianxian, run by a government-approved bishop, established a church school in its cathedral in Cangzhou, a prefecture-level city in Hebei. The children of local Catholics primarily attended the school. One of the believers told Bitter Winter that priests and fellow churchgoers, who were college graduates, taught at the school. Parents were happy with the teachers, who took care of their children and instilled them with moral values. A student’s parent said that “the school charged low fees for quality teaching and management.” More importantly, he added, children were also taught Catholic doctrine and catechism, which is imperative for young believers.
Regardless, the local government repeatedly harassed the school since the day it was launched. Not long after the new term started in September 2018, officials from provincial, municipal, and county governments, accompanied by the armed police, stormed into the school and registered every students’ personal information. They ordered the bishop to close the school and threatened to “demolish the church if he continues recruiting students.” All students were dismissed, and classes in the school halted.
A government insider from Hebei told Bitter Winter that in late 2019, the provincial government issued a document that unleashed more severe crackdowns on Catholicism. On top of suppressing churches refusing to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, the decree also demanded to resolutely ban all religious education for young people, such as summer camps or catechism classes. The document has scaled up the approval process for the religious education of churchgoers and the training of clerical staff implemented by state-sanctioned churches.
The insider added that to prevent minors from entering churches, the provincial government demanded the authorities on all levels under its jurisdiction to intensify the indoctrination of concentrated Catholic communities and establish supervisory venues near churches to ensure that believers don’t bring minors to places of worship.
The Aiyuan Kindergarten in Cangzhou city was established in March 2017 by a local state-approved Catholic church. But over a year later, in October 2018, the government shut it down on the grounds that it “was unlicensed.” More than 60 children had to be transferred to other kindergartens.
According to one of its teachers, the kindergarten was frequently harassed by local officials because it had been set up by the church. Although the principal has repeatedly applied for a license to the local Education Bureau, he was always refused, and officials told him that “churches are not allowed to be involved in education.”
A private kindergarten in a convent in Hebei’s Langfang city was similarly harassed. According to a local source, authorities prohibited the convent’s nuns from becoming legal administrators of the kindergarten, and thus, being able to teach children.
“The CCP often uses soft tactics to restrict the development of churches, suppress religious belief,” one of the nuns commented to Bitter Winter. “It’s unlikely that children will be able to practice their faith in the future. By preventing their access to religious education, the government makes sure that children don’t inherit the Catholic faith.”