China Brainwashing Priests at ‘Patriotic’ Training Courses

A priest marks the forehead of a worshipper with ash during the Ash Wednesday mass
AFP GREG BAKER

The Chinese Communist Party, under Xi Jinping, has expanded its religious crackdown on Islam and Christianity to Taoism. In a column Friday, the Global Times cites a “patriotic” Taoist priest who insists the native Chinese religion is not Chinese enough without “core socialist values.”

Under Xi, Beijing has launched a crusade to implement the “sinification” of religion: making it more “Chinese” by bringing all religions under the full control of the Communist Party. China recognizes five legal religions – Buddhism, Islam, Taoism, Catholicism, and “Christianity” – and has begun a campaign to replace legitimate authorities in all five with pro-Communist leaders who teach subservience to Xi.

The clergy who the regime allows to remain in power is forced into “extensive trainings” at the Central Institute of Socialism meant to indoctrinate priests in Marxist ideology. The institute is designed for individuals who are not members of the Communist Party, but must be made to conform to the tenets of the ruling class. Priests at these classes are being taught to promote socialism, the One Belt One Road world domination scheme, and the glory of Xi Jinping Thought.

The Global Times, a state-run newspaper, referred to “sinification” in its article Friday as “religious localization,” intended to add “patriotic elements” to the practice of faith. To force clergy of all faiths into “sinification,” China is making them attend ideological brainwashing classes.

“Some people think that Taoism, as a native Chinese religion, does not need to be sinicized,” Liang Xingyang, identified as a priest at the Temple of the Golden Immortal in the Zhongnan Mountains, Shaanxi Province, told the Times. “There is a misunderstanding: What is the real meaning of sinification? It means following up the development of China in the new era, digging into religious elements that are in line with core socialist values.”

Unlike Taoism, based on ancient Chinese texts, socialism is widely agreed to have originated from the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, both German nationals.

The Times reveals later that Liang is a Communist Party agitator who has traveled to the South China Sea to promote the colonization of non-Chinese territory in the region.

The state newspaper adds that the regime has also forced Muslim and Christian leaders into indoctrination centers for such a practice. Beijing-approved priests, pastors, and imams have also begun the work of eradicating anything in their religions that contradicts the teachings of “Xi Jinping Thought,” the ideology Xi entrenched in the nation’s constitution in February.

The Christian overhaul, affecting both the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and the Three-Self Patriotic Church (Protestant Christianity), will “increase the proportion of core socialist values, patriotism and Chinese history into the curriculum of China-based theology institutes as well as promote Chinese elements in preaching, religious poems and songs, clothing and church designs,” the Global Times reports.

The Chinese Catholic Church is not tethered to Rome. The Vatican banned Catholics from participating in the rites of the Chinese church in 1988.

The Chinese Islamic Association has launched a similar campaign, the Global Times reports, to force all mosques to promote “the national flag, the Chinese Constitution, core socialist values and traditional classical Chinese culture.”

According to the U.S. Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2017, released this week, China has greatly expanded its repressive efforts against Muslims, particularly in the westernmost province of Xinjiang, where most of the nation’s ethnic Uighur minority live.

“It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of Uighur Muslims have been forcibly sent to re-education centers, and extensive and invasive security and surveillance practices have been instituted,” the State Department report alleged. The Department has previously accused China of disappearing and torturing Muslims in an attempt to eradicate the religion in Xinjiang.

Xi Jinping has also expanded campaigns against Christians, arresting dozens of human rights attorneys known for defending Christians against the government and identifying Christianity itself as a “national security threat.”

“Every church [in China] is forced to install face recognition systems and every church building … is forced to put a sign [up] banning children, students, civil servants, military personnel, and communist party members from entering,” Pastor Bob Fu, who himself fled the regime, told a panel on religious persecution in April.

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