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Authorities demolish Chinese megachurch mid-service

by Tola Mbakwe

According to religious freedom charity China Aid, the government didn't have legal papers ordering the church to be torn down.

The church in Funan in Anhui province could seat 3,000 people and was part of the country's officially-recognised church network, marking a distinct move from the Government's previously more relaxed attititude towards churches it knew about. 

'Underground' house churches, or unregistered churches, were previously the ones primarily at risk but Andrew Boyd from Christian religious freedom charity Release International says this destruction is "a very big statement". 

After bulldozing the church on Friday, its pastors, Geng Yimin and Sun Yongyao, were arrested on suspicion of "gathering a crowd to disturb social order."

Reports suggest no one was injured in the process. 

China Aid President Bob Fu said: "This is yet another clear example showing the escalation of religious persecution today by the Chinese Communist regime.

"The total disregard of religious freedom's protection as enshrined in the Communist Party's own Constitution tells the whole world President Xi is determined to continue his war against the peaceful Christian faithful. This campaign will surely fail in the end."

Mr Boyd added this destruction of a state-registered church will make underground churches more appealing: "Under the laws that have come out in February last year, you can't take any children to church at all - anybody under the age of 18, they're barred from church. The church will appoint your pastors, it will approve in advance the sermons that you can speak, you can teach, and it will monitor by face recognition cameras all of those people who are going into church.

"So, it's becoming impossible for many Christians within China to say 'I can be part of that system', they will be driven underground."

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