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Our contacts in China report that there has been a huge increase in persecution against Christians since the new religious ordinance took effect on 1 February. As we are planning to distribute Christmas Care packs in China this year, we wanted an update on how the new regulations affect Christian children. We were told that while persecution directly targeted at children, varies from province to province, it is on the increase.

China’s legislation dictates that children under the age of 18 may not receive any religious education. The law forbids children to attend church, join any Christian group or take part in religious activities.

China’s government sanctioned Protestant church, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, specifically prohibits children from partaking in religious activities and other state-sanctioned churches are closely monitored to ensure they adhere to the new law that imposes heavy fines for carrying out basic church functions, including teaching children. Because of this, families are attending house churches which are deemed to be illegal, although house churches in provinces governed by Party officials who are not opposed to Christianity tend to be tolerated. House churches in provinces governed by Party officials who are opposed to Christianity suffer raids. The smaller the house church, the less likely it is to be persecuted.

Some house church members have been threatened with legal action if they continue to allow their children to attend church services or participate in religious activities. In many places, local police are warning against conducting ministry to children. A local government office in China’s central Guizhou province delivered an ultimatum to parents attending Huaqiu Church. Parents were told that their children would be barred from university and military programs if they allowed them to attend services.

Because of the new regulations, children’s ministry in China is suffering. There are no children’s ministry materials legally sold. There are no Sunday School materials, such as Veggie Tales videos. All materials are made by church members and/or printed illegally. There are no legal meetings to promote the evangelism and discipleship of children.

The communist authorities have also ruled that Christians may no longer run summer camps for children. Over China’s Summer, children were banned from attending Christian camps in several provinces.

Our Chinese contacts report that China currently has an education crisis. The government cannot afford to build or operate enough schools to educate the children of China. It is becoming increasingly difficult for Chinese families to find a school for their children to attend. Because of this, many private schools have been established, with a percentage of these schools covertly teaching religion. These private schools help alleviate the need for more schools, so the government allows these schools to continue to operate. With the cost of education increasing, many Christian families cannot afford the tuition of private schools, enrolling their children instead in public schools, which all include children’s chapters of the Communist Party called the Young Pioneers. Children are strongly encouraged to join this group and to wear the red bandana around their necks to show their patriotism and loyalty to the Communist Party.

Furthermore, every child enrolled in infants and primary school is now required to reveal their involvement in religion to the authorities in the schools. Teachers in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, recently sent messages to the parents of school students, demanding that the parents disclose their religious beliefs. One Christian said school officials have even come to Christian parents’ homes and workplaces, asking them to renounce their faith. Despite the raising levels of persecution in China, and the increasing fear of the government, Christian parents have indicated that they are committed to raising their children to have a sincere and strong faith in Christ.