Chinese schools are requiring Christian teachers within the nation’s school system to renounce their faith or risk being fired, according to a new report by a religious liberty watchdog.
Bitter Winter, which monitors religious freedom in the country, said the pressure on Christian teachers intensified after Chinese President Xi Jinping in September 2018 said one goal of education was to raise the next generation of socialists. The speech was reported by state-run media.
“The state’s control over ideology is becoming stricter and stricter, particularly in the field of education,” a Catholic kindergarten teacher told Bitter Winter. “If teachers hold religious beliefs … this becomes a political problem for the government.”
The teacher told Bitter Winter she has received criticism for her faith in staff meetings. Additionally, the school principal warned her that a “spiritual civilization award” worth several million yuan that was given to the county could be withdrawn if the government learns of her faith.
“I learned that another county had all of its civilization awards revoked because an inspection team discovered two primary school students singing Christian hymns,” the teacher said.
Teachers in multiple provinces have reported persecution for their faith.
Bitter Winter reported:
- A school in Heilongjiang province last June threatened to dismiss a teacher “after finding out that she also preached in a house church,” Bitter Winter reported.
“She was told to stop doing that, or the government would punish the entire school.”
- A kindergarten teacher in Liaoning province last August was forced to quit after authorities learned she was a practicing Protestant.
- School officials in Shandong province last July investigated newly employed middle school teachers to determine if they held religious beliefs.
“The inquiries into teachers and their family members were carried out in secret, without approaching them directly, only talking to no fewer than five people in their workplace, residential community, or school,” Bitter Winter said.
- A principal in Shandong province last October “forbade all teachers from having religious beliefs, wearing jewelry with religious symbols, and keeping religion-related items on their desks.”
“The teachers were also pressured to urge their religious family members to give up their faith, or their employment at the school would be affected,” Bitter Winter reported.
Meanwhile, China is erasing religion from school literature, too. For example, all references to Christianity were deleted from Daniel Defoe’s 18th-century novel Robinson Crusoe. A line in the original novel reads: “Also, I found three very good Bibles, […] some Portuguese books also; and among them two or three Popish prayer-books, and several other books all which I carefully secured.” The edited novel -- published by the Chinese government -- only references the Portuguese books.
“Teachers are required to indoctrinate children with patriotic ideology, make them believe and praise the Party,” the Catholic teacher said. “The entire country is permeated with patriotism. Moreover, schools have assigned special personnel to monitor and report on religious teachers and students. They were told to give up their faith, and some have been designated as key targets of surveillance, the authorities fearing that they will develop ‘counterrevolutionary influence,’ collude with foreign forces, and cause chaos.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/XiXinXing
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.