Christians in China are being forced to adhere to revised regulations on religion that were implemented in February which has led to strict government controls on their everyday lives, and have been warned about a "red line" they must not cross.
The state-approved Henan Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and Henan Catholic Administration Commission have recently sent out a letter to believers, warning them that religious buildings will be closed by Communist Party authorities unless they adhere to all the new rules.
Some of the most notable restrictions prohibit parents from bringing their children to church, while religious venues are banned from holding training sessions. Both directives are part of the "principle of religion and education separation" outlined by the Religious Affairs Regulations.
"It was only propaganda and education previously, but now there is a red line, a high-pressure line, so take it seriously," the circular warned, according to an article in Ucanews.com on Wednesday.
Catholic churchgoers have said that representatives of the Religious Affairs Bureau of Huiji district have been ordering all youth to leave church mass, with local officials blocking children from entering houses of worship in both Henan's Shangqiu and Anyang dioceses.
"We do not know what will happen next," an unnamed source said.
The new regulations have also forced primary schools in Henan to warn parents that they are not allowed to breach the country's laws on the practice of religion.
"No one may use religions to disrupt social order, harm citizens or impede the national education system," read a letter by the Ninth Primary School of Linzhou city of Anyang and the First Primary School of Chengguan town of Xingyang city of Chengzhou.
"It is an offence for any organizations or individuals to guide, support, permit and condone minors to believe in religions or participate in religious activities," it warned.
Officials have also reportedly warned that schools are places "for the state to foster students to build up socialist society," with parents told they have an obligation "to nurture children in accordance with national laws and social requirements."
One pastor, identified only by the name John, said that the measures could be implemented nationwide, pointing out that for decades churches in China dared not to speak out over Christian persecution, "otherwise they would be attacked."
Chinese believers have said that they are pleading for prayers regarding the new rules and the ongoing church crosses demolition campaign, which have targeted both officially sanctioned churches and underground congregations.
"The condition is deteriorating, but the obstacles tie the house churches together and direct them to God," a believer with the surname Li from a house church in Nanyang told ChinaAid last week.Take Action