Christian villagers in China have been ordered to renounce their faith and replace images of Jesus with portraits of Chairman Mao and President Xi Jinping or risk losing their welfare benefits, amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Bitter Winter, a religious liberty magazine, reports that officials with China’s Communist Party, in April, visited believers’ homes in Linfen, a prefecture-level city in the northern province of Shanxi. While there, they ordered residents who receive social welfare payments from the government to replace crosses, religious symbols, and images in their homes with portraits of China’s communist leaders.
If Christians resisted the order, officials annulled their subsidies.
“All impoverished households in the town were told to display Mao Zedong images,” a local pastor told Bitter Winter. “The government is trying to eliminate our belief and wants to become God instead of Jesus.”
A member of a state-sponsored Three-Self church in one of the villages recounted how local officials tore down all religious images and a calendar with an image of Jesus in his home and posted a portrait of Mao Zedong instead.
“Impoverished religious households can’t receive money from the state for nothing — they must obey the Communist Party for the money they receive,” the believer quoted an official as stating according to Christian Post.
In May, an official in the eastern province of Shandong stormed into the home of a local Christian. While inside the Christian’s home, the official posted portraits of Mao Zedong and Xi Jinping and reportedly said, “These are the greatest gods. If you want to worship somebody, they are the ones.”
In April, the government of Xinyu city in the southeastern province of Jiangxi canceled a disabled Christian’s minimum living subsidy and a monthly disability allowance of 100 RMB (about $14) because the believer continued to attend worship services despite government orders.
Similarly, in Jiangxi’s Poyang county, a Christian woman in her 80s was removed from the government’s aid list because she said “Thank God” after receiving her monthly 200 RMB (about $28) subsidy in mid-January.