The communist Chinese government is ordering some Christians to take down religious symbols, including crosses, crucifixes, and images of Jesus Christ, and to replace them with communist leaders, according to a new report.
The startling report of religious oppression was reported in Bitter Winter, a religious liberty magazine.
"All impoverished households in the town were told to display Mao Zedong images," said a local pastor to Bitter Winter.
"The government is trying to eliminate our belief and wants to become God instead of Jesus," he added.
The order was made in April when communist party officials visited believers' homes in the city of Linfen, located in the northern province of Shanxi.
The officials said that those who were receiving financial assistance from the government would have to take down their religious symbols and replace them with portraits of Chairman Mao and President Xi Jinping. If they refused to do so, they could face the loss of their welfare benefits.
One villager recounted that officials tore down the Christian images in his home and replaced them with a portrait of Mao Zedong.
The believer quoted the official as saying, "Impoverished religious households can't receive money from the state for nothing — they must obey the Communist Party for the money they receive."
The report went on to document several instances where believers lost their support and benefits from the state merely for expressing religious sentiments or displaying religious symbols.
Muslims targeted also
The Communist Party of China has seen renewed criticism for its efforts at repressing the beliefs of the Uighur community, a Muslim sect, as well.
On Sunday, a Chinese ambassador denied the existence of detention camps despite drone footage that appeared to show hundreds of bound and blindfolded Uighur prisoners being led onto trains by armed soldiers in Xinjiang.
In June, President Donald Trump signed legislation condemning the Chinese government for the detainment of members of ethnic groups including the Uighurs. Some have been subjected to torture, forced labor and other deprivations in the camps. The bill passed overwhelmingly in both houses of Congress.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made it clear that the U.S. is opposed to Chinese repression of religious liberty.
"In China, state-sponsored repression against all religions continues to intensify," Pompeo said, according to the Associated Press. "The Chinese Communist Party is now ordering religious organizations to obey CCP leadership and infuse communist dogma into their teachings and practice of their faith. The mass detentions of Uighurs in Xinjiang continues."
Here's more about religious persecution in China:
Chinese Government Orders Low-Income Families to Abandon Their Christian Faith or Lose Financial Aidwww.youtube.com