Some 300 schoolchildren in the Christian Zhejiang province have been forced to fill out a form declaring that they do not follow any religion. A “trusted source” told Christian persecution watchdog World Watch Monitor (WWM) that it is normal for parents to fill in a questionnaire that asks them about their child’s religion, but having to falsely declare that they do not follow Jesus is unheard of. “In this case, the children were handed a questionnaire in class about faith, which is not normal,” the source explained, adding prying for more information on the kids appears to be part of a new initiative “to identify Christians and give them pressure of one sort or another.”
“Children in this part of China would write ‘Christian’ because of their innocence and because they come from families of fervent believers who do not compromise their faith,” the source added. However, the teacher demanded that each child specify on their form that they follow “No religion.” After numerous warnings, all but one of the students changed to “no religion.” “It seems teachers have been tasked with pressuring children by separating them from the other students to ‘counsel’ them sternly about the ‘consequences’ of talking about being a Christian believer at school,” the WWM source explained.
“This is for the child’s sake and to limit any growth of Christianity amongst young people through evangelism or simply becoming known as the ones who could answer questions other pupils may have about Christianity.” Indeed, these are not empty threats put forward by government-swayed educational staff. If students fail to comply and are bold to declare their faith, they will likely forfeit any opportunity to, for example, become a class representative. In more severe cases, they may not even obtain their leaving certificate upon graduating from school, making it difficult for the student to gain admission to a university.
Indeed, the persecution can go even further than that for young followers of Jesus. Every choice the child makes with relation to their official religious status is recorded on their “file.” These are then held by government officials on a permanent basis. Thus, an out-of-line answer may result in hampered employment opportunities. “Of course these are all hypothetical scenarios and would be determined largely by the level of involvement of the individual school, its teachers and principals,” the source qualified. “But generally the sense is one of bias against Christians.” Do continue to pray for Christians across China, and the persecuted Church across the world.