In the country’s province of Henan, which has one of the largest Christian populations in China, churches were raided and demolished, Bibles and holy books were confiscated and new laws were established to monitor religious activities.
One Christian named Guo described an incident in which Chinese officials interrupted a church meeting and told everyone to leave. They then ordered church leaders to remove a cross, a Bible verse and a painting of the Last Supper off the wall. Guo didn’t give his full name out of fear of government repercussions.
“I’ve always prayed for our country’s leaders, for our country to get stronger,” he told AP. “They were never this severe before, not since I started going to church in the 80’s. Why are they telling us to stop now?”
The intensity of the government crackdowns have increased in recent months. Just this year, they have shut down hundreds of Christian house churches, seized Bibles and forced e-commerce retailers to stop selling Bibles, prevented children from attending church in some areas, urged Christians in one location to replace posters of Jesus with pictures of President Xi Jinping, and raided church meetings and interrogated hundreds of Christians from one congregation.
To avoid becoming targets in the government campaign, many congregations are meeting in smaller groups in person and online.
“We are trying to look more like a family that are here to chat and drink tea so no one will report us to the police,” Enoch, a 22-year-old Christian in southern China, said.
“I’m really afraid it will be shut down one day,” said Enoch, who converted to Christianity three years ago. “At the state church, I felt like I was listening to a lecture. But at the family church, people know about each other and love each other.”
According to the Associated Press, experts said Presiden Xi is “waging the most severe systematic suppression of Christianity in the country since religious freedom was written into the Chinese constitution in 1982.”