Updated: July 16, 2021 06:57 AM GMT
Monk Zhi Xiang stands next to a golden Buddha statue at a temple in Shanghai. Buddhism is one of five religions accepted by communist China. (Photo: AFP)
Chinese officials have ordered pastors of the leading state-controlled Protestant Church body to study and preach the speech of President Xi Jinping delivered on July 1, the 100th founding anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The directives were announced during the national conference of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the state-controlled body of the Protestant Church in mainland China, and the China Christian Council, which oversees education in Three-Self churches, reports Bitter Winter magazine.
The theme of the July 8 conference was “Learning and Implementing the Spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s Speech of July 1” and it was led by Xu Xiaohong, chairman of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, and Wu Wei, chairman of the China Christian Council.
Both groups are overseen by the United Front Work Department, the umbrella intelligence and coordination body of the CCP that gathers intelligence, manages relations and attempts to influence individuals and organizations including religions and religious groups inside and outside China.
In his strongly worded speech lasting around an hour, Xi eulogized the vital role of the CCP in laying the foundation of modern China and warned that attempts to separate the party from the Chinese people would fall flat.
"Only socialism can save China, and only socialism with Chinese characteristics can develop China. We will never allow anyone to bully, oppress or subjugate China. Anyone who dares try to do that will have their heads bashed bloody against the Great Wall of Steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people" Xi said in what seemed a veiled threat to the West.
No one should underestimate the resolve, the will and ability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity
Xi also said China maintains an "unshakeable commitment" to unification with Taiwan.
Despite democratic Taiwan long functioning as an independent country, China still considers it a breakaway province and a part of its territory. It has threatened to annex Taiwan militarily.
"No one should underestimate the resolve, the will and ability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity," Xi said.
During the conference, state-appointed heads of the groups said they expect pastors of the churches to make President Xi’s speech a principal topic of study, preaching in their sermons and a matter of discussion for Bible study groups.
Xu Xiaohong offered a model sermon for pastors based on nine points in the speech that glorified China, the CCP and President Xi.
He urged pastors to realize the CCP and Xi materialized the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and that Christians should frequently repeat two slogans: “Long live the great, glorious and correct Chinese Communist Party! Long live the great, glorious and heroic Chinese people!”
He insisted that the roots and blood of the CCP are in the people and it is the people’s own party.
Xu said the CCP has brought great and harmonious developments to the “five civilizations”: material, political, spiritual, social and economical.
Christians should trust the CCP as it has successfully governed the country for more than 70 years and they should join the CCP in telling foreign hostile powers that “the era when the Chinese nation was slaughtered and bullied is gone forever,” he added.
Officially atheist China recognizes the legal entity of five religions — Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam and Taoism
The official also warned that failure to follow the directives would be seen as violation of Sinicization, which is a necessary condition for churches to survive in China.
Sinicization aims to impose strict rules on societies and institutions based on the core values of socialism, autonomy and supporting the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.
Officially atheist China recognizes the legal entity of five religions — Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam and Taoism.
For decades, Chinese authorities have strictly controlled official religious groups and persecuted those adhering allegiance to unrecognized or unregistered groups such as the Church of Almighty God and Falun Gong. The latter is among 20 cults or belief groups labeled “anti-China” or “evil cults."
Since 2018, under the pretext of the new regulations on religious affairs, Chinese authorities have shut down hundreds of churches and church-based charities including Catholic-run orphanages on allegations of operating illegally or violating rules by indoctrinating people with religion.