China’s communist government has expanded its ban on Christian funerals in recent months, continuing to use laws prohibiting religious activities outside of churches to also outlaw religious-themed ceremonies for the dead, according to a new report.
Bitter Winter first reported on the ban in January with examples of bans on Christian funerals in the provinces of Henan, Hubei and Zhejiang. In August, Bitter Winter said the prohibition on Christian funerals had continued to spread throughout those regions and also was being implemented in the province of Liaoning.
The Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee of Dandong, Liaoning, issued an order banning “private religious activities outside religious venues,” according to Bitter Winter. Funeral homes can be inspected under the order.
“In July, the Religious Affairs Bureau summoned church directors to inform them that congregations were not allowed to hold services for the deceased, and preachers were banned from hosting wedding and funeral ceremonies,” said a preacher in Liaoning who leads a Three-Self congregation. “Any clergy member who holds such services or ceremonies will be dismissed and punished.”
Churches that are part of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement are legal but face severe restrictions on their freedoms.
In Yongcheng, Henan, a Christian-themed funeral was halted mid-service.
“If I hold religious ceremonies, my church might be implicated, even closed forever,” the preacher who was leading the funeral told Bitter Winter.
In Wenzhou, Zhejiang, a funeral home employee told a church member to stop lighting cross-shaped candles and threatened “not to cremate the deceased’s body if the believer disobeyed,” Bitter Winter reported.
Christian songs aren’t allowed, either. In Ningbo, Zhejiang, members of a church went to a local crematorium to sing hymns in remembrance of a deceased Christian but were told to stop. Security guards told them that “religious hymns cannot be sung because China is an atheist country,” the church members said.
Photo courtesy: James Coleman/Unsplash
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.