China’s government has mandated the removal of the large red crosses that grace the top of many Chinese churches, but Chinese Christians are fighting to keep the central symbol of their faith.
According to Christianity Today, under Zhejiang provincial party secretary Xia Baolong, hundreds of red crosses have been taken down, especially in the city of Wenzhou, known as “China’s Jerusalem.”
The campaign to take down crosses from Chinese churches began in 2013, gained more force last summer, and since then has claimed the crosses of around 400 churches, according to The Washington Post. Other forms of persecution have been ongoing as well, including the forced demolition of churches and the arrests and detainment of Christians who resist the mandate to take down the crosses.
The Chinese government’s specific rules regarding crosses on churches are outlined as follows: They must be short, no more than one tenth the height of the building’s facade. They must be unobtrusive, painted a color that blends in with the building. And they must be placed on the building, not above it. Since most church crosses are large, red, and on the top of the building, most of them are now considered illegal.
Many Chinese Christians are refusing to accept the new rules for church crosses, however. Christianity Today reports that on July 4, members of one church affected by the rules to restrict the display of crosses staged a sit-in with banners that read “lift up the cross” and “protect religious freedom.”
In addition, some Chinese Christians have started an online campaign in the spirit of peaceful protest, urging fellow believers to craft small wooden crosses, paint them red, and display them on their homes, cars, and any place where they will be seen.
Catholic seminary professor Chen Kaihua stated, “Tomorrow you will see crosses everywhere in Zhejiang.”
According to another Christianity Today article, some Chinese Christians even formed a human shield in an effort to protect their brand-new megachurch, but the government still began demolition of the building, claiming that the church was not zoned properly.
Because of these resistance efforts, some Chinese Christians have been arrested and charged with “obstructing official duty” and “running an illegal business,” but their lawyers are arguing that the real cause for the arrests is because they resisted government efforts to take their church’s cross down.
Publication date: August 4, 2015