Though Chinese Christians are banned from honoring their own martyrs, they are now required to pray for communist soldiers who died in the war with imperial Japan to “demonstrate the good image of peace-loving Christianity in China.”
According to religious liberty magazine Bitter Winter, the Chinese Communist Party recently issued a new directive requiring state-sponsored churches to pray for soldiers of the Red Army who died during the resistance war against Japanese occupation forces.
The directive was reportedly sent to all churches that are part of the government-controlled Protestant Three-Self Church.
In part, the directive orders churches to “organize peace prayer worship activities to commemorate the 76th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War around Sept. 3, according to the actual situation.”
It adds: “Local churches and congregations may, according to the actual local situation, carry out relevant peace prayer activities in a small and decentralized form, in line with the local requirements for prevention and control of the new COVID epidemic, to further promote the fine tradition of patriotism and love of religion and to demonstrate the good image of peace-loving Christianity in China.”
Churches are further “required to submit evidence of the relevant activities (text, video and photo materials) to the Media Ministry Department of the China Christian Council by September 10” or face consequences, according to Bitter Winter.
In August, members of the Theological Seminary in Fujian were also invited to attend a celebration to pay tribute to martyrs of what China dubs “People’s War of Resistance Against the Japanese Aggression.”
Prayers were held seeking the intercession of “Jesus, the King of Peace” for the “peaceful reunification” of China, Bitter Winter reported.
Though the CCP requires churches to pray for deceased communist soldiers, Bitter Winter notes that Christians in China are forbidden to pray for their martyrs, and those killed by the CCP cannot be commemorated.
Religious persecution is worsening across China, as President Xi Jinping’s “sinicization campaign,” introduced in 2015, seeks to bring religions under the officially atheist party’s absolute control and into line with Chinese culture.
In May, the CCP ordered churches affiliated with the government to plan celebrations to mark 100 years of its existence.