ANUHUI (China) – Two hundred and fifty crosses have been removed this year from Christian churches in the Chinese province of Anhui, reports say. Details of the removal of the crosses from January to April were released by Bitter Winter, a religious freedom organization. The crosses have been removed from state-sanctioned temples. All these churches are part of a Protestant organization called the Three Self Churches.
On April 1, 10 government officials arrived to remove the crosses of the Gulu shrine, located in the city of Fuyang in Anhui province. Hundreds of Christians tried to stop them, but to no avail. The Gulu shrine is 124 years old. The temple leadership has said that government officials have demanded the removal of all Christian and Buddhist symbols in various parts of the country. He said that if something went wrong, it could be negotiated with the government.
Only 33 crosses have been removed from one county in the province. The BitterWinter report points out that the government is doing all this to justify the fact that the crosses are too long and too wide to fall down. One believer told BitterWinter that the state fears that the Christians will fight the Chinese government with outside forces.
He added that those who do not support the removal of the cross are branded as anti-communists and that there is great pressure to renounce the faith, but that they will remain. There is already a law in the country that Christians in China must join party-controlled three-self churches or become members of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. Most believers rely on state-sanctioned secret shrines to live a life of faith subject to conditions.