In the latest blatant attack against the church-at-large in communist China, Chinese government authorities tore down a megachurch’s building in the Funan, Anhui region, starting the demolition while the congregation was worshipping. The church’s pastors were also arrested and detained.
China Aid, an international nonprofit Christian human rights group based in Texas, reported the incident in a statement released Saturday. According to the group, Chinese authorities provided no legal papers to justify the demolition.
The large building – which resembled many large church buildings in the United States and was topped with a spire and cross – was located in the province of Anhui, which rests in the eastern part of the country and has about 60 million residents.
The congregation was part of China’s officially recognized network of churches.
China Aid President Bob Fu said in a statement that the incident was “yet another clear example showing the escalation of religious persecution today by the Chinese Communist regime.”
“The total disregard of religious freedom’s protection as enshrined in the Communist Party’s own Constitution tells the whole world President Xi is determined to continue his war against the peaceful Christian faithful. This campaign will surely fail in the end,” he continued.
While China’s persecution of religious groups has existed for many years, recently under President Xi Jinping a wave of crackdowns on religious practices in China has taken place.
The Communist government has destroyed or damaged several churches, reflecting concerns about the increasing Christian population of the country.
A video obtained from China Aid shows the excavator pulling the building apart, as pieces of concrete tumble into a pile of rubble on the ground.
What’s even more frightening to members of the congregation is that the church is a part of the communist country’s officially recognized church network.
The officials also detained the church’s pastors, Geng Yimin and Sun Yongyao, on suspicion of “gathering a crowd to disturb social order,” China Aid reported.
The lack of religious freedom is one reason millions of Christians have gone underground to worship in illegal house churches.
President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has ordered that all religions must “Sinicize” to ensure they are loyal to the officially atheistic party.
China’s government requires that Protestants worship only in churches recognized and regulated by the officially sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement, although many more are part of independent congregations.
Earlier this year a Three-Self pastor reported that the government was “subtly changing our faith” by forcing pastors to follow unbiblical requirements. That pastor was ordered to preach about Confucius.
“This is the erosion of Christianity,” the pastor said.
China is ranked 27th on Persecution Watchdog, Open Door’s list of top 50 countries where it is most deadly to be a christian.