Communist authorities destroyed a 3,000-seat megachurch over the weekend, using a large excavator to tear apart the building as members and citizens watched helplessly, according to China Aid.
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. Communist officials lacked the proper legal paperwork to order the destruction, China Aid reported. China Aid monitors religious persecution in the country.
A China Aid video shows the excavator pulling the building apart, as pieces of concrete tumble into a pile of rubble on the ground.
“This is yet another clear example showing the escalation of religious persecution today by the Chinese Communist regime,” said Bob Fu, president of China Aid. “The total disregard of religious freedom's protection as enshrined in the Communist Party's own Constitution tells the whole world [Chinese] President Xi is determined to continue his war against the peaceful Christian faithful. This campaign will surely fail in the end.”
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.
China officially recognizes two Christian bodies: the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. Churches within the two networks, though, don’t have the freedom to worship as they choose. In the past, Communist officials have edited sermons, forced the removal of crosses, and banned Sunday Schools for children. The law prohibits the conversion of minors.
The lack of religious freedom is one reason millions of Christians have gone underground to worship in illegal house churches.
Earlier this year a Three-Self pastor told Bitter Winter, a religious watchdog, 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.
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog at MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: China Aid
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.