Due to severe persecution of The Church of Almighty God, the children of the believers on the run from authorities cannot attend schools to receive the compulsory nine years of education.
Association with The Church of Almighty God (CAG), one of the most persecuted religious movements in China, may result in strict and lengthy punishments, sometimes more than seven years in prison. Which is why Church members choose to run away when they are in danger of arrest. If they have school-age children, their education is interrupted and, as a rule, they are rarely admitted to a new school.
In 2014, Liu Zhijian and his wife were forced to flee into hiding as they found out that they would be arrested for being members of the CAG. The couple has two children, both of whom were less than ten years old at the time.
This year, their younger son, Xiaoguang, turned 12, while his brother is 14. In the past four years, Mr. Liu has tried to get his children enrolled in school three times, despite the danger of being exposed and arrested. All three attempts have been unsuccessful since school management always asks for valid official documents needed for new students to be accepted, such as the parents’ ID, a residence registration certificate, and a student registration certificate.
As a result, the boys have no choice but to study at home by themselves. They look with envy through the windows of their rented apartment at other children going to school. Xiaoguang showed his diary to the Bitter Winter reporter, which read, “I want to go to school, but I know that I cannot. Since the police are after my mom and dad, we cannot return to our home or have a happy childhood.”
Thirteen-year-old Xiaocheng is in the same boat as well. His parents are believers too and have to change their residence frequently. He said, “I’ve lost the opportunity to go to school. However, with the help of people at the Church, I have gradually learned a lot of Chinese characters.”
These are not unique cases. Large numbers of children of persecuted believers are deprived of their homes and any future possibilities to learn and acquire a profession. It is especially saddening to think about them during the week when the international community is celebrating the Universal Children’s Day.
(All the names used here are pseudonyms.)
Reported by Shen Xiang