As COVID-19 restrictions continue to be lifted in China, churches across the country are starting to plan their reopening.
It appears, however, some churches are not being allowed to reconvene until congregants sing the national anthem and the national flag is raised under the instruction of the Chinese Communist Party, Bitter Winter reports.
On June 14, The Lishiting Catholic Church in the Shunhe district of Kaifeng reopened for the first time in five months.
In a gathering of around 20 people, a priest rang in the church’s reopening with a flag-raising ceremony. According to Bitter Winter, government officials attended the ceremony in a supervisory capacity.
“We solemnly raise the national flag here today after the epidemic, witnessing the fruits of all people working together under the leadership of Xi Jinping who directs the government and the Party,” the priest said.
Also on that day, in the Shunhe district, the Gangxi Christian Church reopened under the aforementioned conditions. According to one congregant, Church leaders were also instructed to commend Chinese leaders’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The church finally reopened after five months, 147 days, or 21 Sundays, but instead of singing hymns to praise God, the government required us to raise the national flag and sing the national anthem, praising Xi Jinping’s ‘victory in fighting the epidemic,’” the congregant shared.
“This is completely contrary to our belief,” they added.
In order to reopen, churches are reportedly being required to endorse Chinese patriotism and tell believers “moving stories about China’s battle with the pandemic,” The Two Chinese Christian Councils in Henan, Zhejiang, and other provinces shared.
A pastor from Quannan Church, the largest Christian church in Quanzhou city in the southeastern province of Fujian, noted that he was told by officials to praise Xi Jinping for his handling of COVID-19 and to criticize the U.S. for their handling of the novel coronavirus.
The pastor went on to note that he was required to assert “the superiority of the socialist system” and promote love for the “socialist system and the Communist Party.”
According to one church member, “The United Front Work Department and Religious Affairs Bureau demand to hold flag-raising ceremonies and promote patriotism.”
They added, “From now on, all churches have to do so, or they will be shut down, and their leaders dismissed.”
Photo courtesy: Alejandro Luengo/Unsplash
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.