More than 900 crosses have been removed from official churches in one province – Anhui, China – since the beginning of the year, according to a report from Bitter Winter.
Anhui has the second-largest Christian population in China and has been the focus of increased Christian persecution. Removing the cross is symbolic of the persecution that Christians are seeing in China, as China attempts to remove any sign of Christianity in their country – similar to their attempts during the Cultural Revolution.
Early in 2020, official churches in China were ordered to remove their crosses. The United Front Work Department officials were quoted as saying that, “all crosses taller than government buildings must be demolished because they overshadow state institutions.” This is a similar teaching to many Islamic countries that forbid churches to be higher than a mosque.
The Christians were required to remove the crosses themselves, but if they failed to do it on their own, the government would bring in police and state-sponsored construction crews to remove it by force. One church member was quoted as saying that the government uses other forms of threat, even against children, to persuade the believers to remove the crosses. “If a church refuses to remove it’s cross,” they said, “congregation members may lose their social benefits, like pensions and poverty-alleviation subsidies, and possibilities for their children’s future employment will be affected.”
Three of the largest underground house churches that BTJ supports are located in Anhui Province; together they total almost twenty million believers.