(China Aid) – Authorities in China’s southwestern Sichuan province have been conducting massive crackdowns on unregistered churches in the region, issuing final warnings and requiring that pastors decide whether or not to join the official churches.
Four churches have already received this warning, including Shangxi Church in Guangyuan, Guiyi Church in Mianyang, and Xinguang Church and Joshua Church in Chengdu.
“A few churches’ pastors, who I have connections with, already received the government’s final warning, requiring that they should make a decision within two weeks: either join Three-Self Churches or be disbanded,” a local Christian told China Aid, which monitors the persecution of believers worldwide.
In China, in order to be considered a legal venue, churches must become state-run churches—otherwise known as Three-Self Churches—allowing officials to monitor them. As a result, many churches do not register with the government.
The local neighborhood committee, police officers, and domestic security authorities have harassed these churches, prohibiting them from holding services. The officials also sent people to monitor and investigate the churches, and the Christians were told their gatherings should be immediately stopped.
Shangxi Church was previously closed by the Lizhou District Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau in June 2011. The department sent the church a document, claiming that its leaders were “unauthorized clerics; they illegally organized religious events, and the venue was illegitimate.”
According to the website of the Sichuan Provincial Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee, more than 100 local religious officials received “law enforcement” training, with the goal to help local officials effectively control churches.
ChinaAid exposes abuses, such as those suffered by churches in Sichuan, in order to stand in solidarity with the persecuted and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law.