China (MNN) –The Chinese crackdown on religious expression has a targeted focus on children’s programs and believers and ministries in the region are taking notice.
“The Bible says train up a child in the way they should go and when they are old, they will not depart from it,” says Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) USA Spokesperson Todd Nettleton. “The Chinese government, the Communist Party leaders, are very aware of that as well and they want to train up a child to be a good Communist. And so churches that operate schools, even… just kindergartens, have been targeted by the Chinese government. They are even looking at how parents are raising their children.”
Rules against Sunday School programs and children attending services have long been in place but for years the government turned a blind eye.
“Their training is supposed to be left to the government
until they’re an adult, at that point, then it would be legal for them to come to a registered church,” Nettleton says.
Now churches are being raided, pastors detained, schools closed, and children are being asked about their parent’s reading choices and gathering habits.
Religious Expression Crackdown
“This is part of a broader picture in China right now of a concerted effort to control all religious expression. Every aspect of the church, whether it be a registered church or an unregistered is under the scrutiny of the Communist government. They are trying to bring every aspect of religious expression under their communist control.” Nettleton says.
The end goal is to bring religions in line with the ideals of the Chinese Communist Party. Other targeted groups include the Muslim minorities of the Xinjiang region many of who have been detained in re-education camps. Like Christian children’s programs, some Arabic-language schools are now being shut down. Read more about China’s increasing pressure on religious expression here.
Action is already underway to support the families of believers being impacted by the crackdown. VOM South Korea is now developing tools and a program for these parents. Further information will be released in the coming weeks and months. Learn more about VOM here.
“Every parent is responsible, whether they live in America or China, to help their children develop good spiritual habits and good spiritual understanding,” Nettleton says.
Now they just need the tools to do so. VOM also stresses the importance of the stories of victorious Christians of the past. This is neither the first time nor the last Chinese Christians have been persecuted, and they can draw strength from understanding that legacy and unity.
How to Help
Though Chinese Christians are facing an internal threat, fellow believers can do a lot to help. Please pray for Chinese Christians, especially parents and their children. Sponsor Bibles through
VOM to reach Chinese Christians and provide encouragement.
On a more tangible level, Nettleton asks believers to pressure their government officials to address religious freedom in China during ongoing negotiations.
“We need to make sure our government knows that we as voters, this is something we care about. It’s something we
think about when we go into the ballot box. That also makes a difference for our Chinese brothers and sisters,” Nettleton says.