A collection of Bitter Winter reports on how Christians in China continue practicing their faith, in the face of persecution, deprived of places to worship.
by Bitter Winter
Since the new Regulations on Religious Affairs came into effect in early 2018, the CCP has been shutting down, demolishing and taking over religious activity venues. Both state-approved and unofficial churches have been subjected to ever-intensifying suppression, leaving numerous believers spiritually homeless.
Christians are forced to find secluded, often inapt venues to avoid investigations and harassment and continue worshiping. Despite adverse conditions, they are determined to persevere in keeping their faith alive.
We present here a collection of earlier published reports about the hardships endured by Christians across China.
Worshiping in pigsties, sheep pens, and cemeteries
After a Three-Self meeting venue in Shangqiu city in the central province of Henan was shut down in August last year, its congregation rented a sheep pen on a farm. To avoid the working hours of government personnel, believers begin each gathering before dawn and wrap up before 8 a.m.
After a Catholic church in Changchun city in the northeastern province of Jilin was forcibly shut down in August 2018, the congregation was forced to hold Mass in a cemetery, while a group of Sola Fide believers had to pray in an abandoned pigsty.
Praying on a bus
Ahead of the National Day, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China celebrated on October 1 this year, China’s capital intensified “social stability maintenance” measures, primarily targeting religious venues that are not approved by the state. One of them, a house church venue in Beijing’s Chaoyang district, was closed down on August 25, its congregation suppressed. Having nowhere else to go, the believers decided to meet for a Sunday prayer on a bus.
Congregating in a bathhouse or a mountain valley
In April, the local United Front Work Department and Religious Affairs Bureau shut down a house church meeting venue in a city of Inner Mongolia for holding “illegal gatherings.” The person in charge was threatened with arrest if he continued organizing congregation meetings. Desperate to find a relatively safe place where they could avoid further harassment, the believers rented an unused 30-square-meter public bathhouse as their new meeting venue.
A house church in Lanzhou, the capital of the northwestern province of Gansu, was threatened with a 50,000 RMB (about $ 7,500) fine and imprisonment of congregation members if they refused to join the Three-Self Church. To evade the pressure from the state and escape persecution, the believers decided to hold their gatherings in an uninhabited small mountain valley.
Celebrating Mass outdoors
An underground Catholic church in Xingtai city in northern China’s Hebei Province was ordered to shut down in October 2018 because it “did not have a religious venue registration certificate.” Before the closure, the local government regularly sent personnel to conduct inspections and closely monitor the church. To evade the watchful eyes of officials, the congregation started organizing Sunday Mass in various secreted locations, notifying each other of the place and time at the latest possible moment. Their Christmas Mass last year was held outdoors in a secluded, cramped courtyard, despite the cold.
In July 2018, the CCP prohibited the use of a church in Dongergou Parish, one of the oldest Catholic parishes in Taiyuan city of the northern province of Shanxi. The believers had no choice but to assemble outside the church. They still don’t have a venue to celebrate Mass.
Worshiping on church ruins
On September 10, 2018, the Fuyang city authorities in the eastern province of Anhui secretly demolished a government-controlled Three-Self church, leaving its 100 odd believers with no place to worship. They continued congregating on the ruins of their church, even on rainy days.
A month later, in Zibo, a city in the neighboring Shandong Province, a Three-Self church was demolished, and its congregation were forced to assemble in a gazebo near their village. To make sure that they are not discovered, believers wait until dark to meet.
In the afternoon of June 11, 2018, authorities completely demolished a government-controlled Three-Self church in Tahoe township’s Shuangmiao village, administered by Xichuan county in Nanyang, a prefecture-level city in Henan Province. The congregation were unable to find a new venue, so they continued worshiping on the rubble of the demolished church.