The growing number of Christians in China is officially estimated at a conservative 23 million but independent scholars suspect as many as 100 million total – raising the possibility that Christians may in fact outnumber the current 85 million members of the ruling Communist Party – a political system which seems to be quickly loosing it’s firm grip over the masses as evidenced by recent protests there.

It’s also evident because of recent “building code” crackdowns on Christian churches across the country – a sign the government wants to suppress the growing Christian movement. Churches were first told last year to turn off any spotlights shining on their crosses at night. A few months later, the congregations were ordered to remove the crosses altogether or face forced demolitions.

Because of the government’s crackdown most Christians in China will worship this Christmas under cross-less roofs since provincial authorities have toppled crosses from more than 400 churches, and even destroyed some worship halls in a crackdown on building code violations.

Chinese Christians, however, aren’t taking the tyrannical religious oppression without a fight. Two days before Christmas, members of a rural Christian congregation in the eastern city of Wenzhou welded some pieces of metal into a cross and hoisted it atop of their worship hall to replace one that was forcibly removed by the government in October. Within an hour, however, township officials and uniformed men barged onto the church ground and tore down the cross.

“They keep a very close watch on us, and there is nothing we can do,” said a church official, who spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday on condition of anonymity because of fear of government retaliation. “The situation is not good, as any attempt to re-erect the cross will be stopped.”

Many Christians in China believe their faith has been singled out because authorities are wary of its rapid growth and are seeking to curb its spread in a campaign that has targeted China’s most thriving Christian communities, such as Wenzhou, known as China’s Jerusalem because it has half of the province’s 4,000 churches. In that province authorities have banned all Christmas celebrations or related activities in the city’s kindergartens and grade schools.

Resistance by local Christians has led to protests,  clashes and arrests of pastors and churchgoers. At least two people – one pastor and one churchgoer – remain in police custody for their acts to defend the cross.

“This year’s Christmas has been exceptional, as a group of uniformed men have been helping us move tables, direct traffic, and guard holiday decorations as well as the front door, the back door, the warehouse and the sanctuary,” church pastor Tao Chongyin wrote on a social media site.

Merry Christmas to our Chinese brothers and sisters in Christ who continue to resist oppression and spread the word of peace, love and compassion – in a country well-known for its iron-fist-rule and barbaric trampling of human rights. The rest of the world’s Christians are aware of your plight and praying for your continued progress in 2015. -Ed


A church member wears a T-shirt with the Chinese words “Defend the cross” as he stands guard July 16 to protect a cross from being demolished at a Christian church in Ao’jiang, Pingyang county of Wenzhou in eastern China’s Zhejiang province.