‘IT HAS BECOME DIFFICULT TO MAINTAIN BELIEF IN GOD BECAUSE OF RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION’
China’s communist government is warning elderly Christians that they will lose basic benefits if they don’t stop practicing their faith.
Bitter Winter, the online magazine about religious liberty and human rights in China, reports the Communist Party is threatening “to take away the last means of survival from elderly believers,” the government benefits of “housing, food, clothing, medical care, and funeral expenses.”
“A Catholic from Fuzhou city in the southeastern province of Jiangxi has been receiving monthly 250 RMB (about $ 35) from the government since 2018, the year her husband died,” Bitter Winter reported.
“At the end of 2019, local government officials threatened the woman, in her 60s, that the subsidy would be withdrawn unless she removes images of Jesus from her home. ‘Because the Communist Party feeds you,’ they told the woman, ‘you must only believe in it, not God.’ Two months later, the pension was canceled because she refused to remove the symbols,” the report said.
She told Bitter Winter, “It has become difficult to maintain belief in God because of religious persecution.”
Reggie Littlejohn, founder and president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, said it’s “a heartbreak and an outrage that widows and other elderly are forced to renounce their faith in order to receive stipends. For many, they may need these funds to survive.”
“It [is] a pathetic act of cowardice to force desperate widows to choose between their survival and their God. This widow, who refused to renounce her faith potentially in the face of abject poverty, is heroic,” she said.
“This form of religious persecution is on the rise in the area of China where we have our Save a Widow Campaign. I was just informed that in our area, a government official has instructed our widows to stay home on Sundays and not to go to church. He also ridiculed Jesus, saying, ‘The Chinese government gives you 160 RMB (about $23). How much money does Jesus Christ give you?’”
She continued: “Fortunately for the widows in our area, they have a ready answer. Our fieldworkers bring love and compassion to widows, along with practical help: a $25 monthly stipend that makes a huge difference in their lives, providing food and warmth. Our fieldworkers encourage these widows in their faith, and many have found new hope that there is a God who loves them.”
Littlejohn for years has fought China’s one-child policy, which banned couples from having more than one child. It recently was changed to two children, but forced abortions still are part of the government’s enforcement policy.
Bitter Winter noted that just weeks ago, officials in Fuzhou “forced an 80-year-old Christian women to cover up a cross image in her home, again threatening her subsistence allowance.”
Authorities also have begun an intensive campaign of “return” inspections “to make sure that people don’t resume practicing their faith,” the report said.
In one case, government bureaucrats “threatened a Sola Fide believer in a nursing home, who has been paralyzed for eight years, to drive him out of the residence if he continued his belief.”
“The officials said that I am supposed to believe in the Communist Party since it feeds me, or else all my social benefits would be canceled,” he said. “I won’t give up my faith no matter how the government pursues me. If it cancels my benefits, I will meet God earlier.”
In Yingtan city, authorities “deprived a local Christian of her government aid for hosting religious meetings at home, even though the woman was immobile from an illness,” the report said. And they also harassed a Catholic, in her 70s, to replace religious symbols with images of President Xi Jingping.