Christians in a village in southeastern China have reportedly been asked to replace their posters of Jesus Christ with posters and photos of Chinese President Xi Jinping if they want relief from poverty and illness.
According to the South China Morning Post, Chinese government officials are encouraging the change.
Xi has publicly said that he is working to end poverty by 2020. That work includes government visits to Christian families to encourage them to follow the Communist Party policies and solve their problems.
“Many poor households have plunged into poverty because of illness in the family. Some resorted to believing in Jesus to cure their illnesses,” said Qi Yan, chairman of the Huangjinbu people’s congress.
“But we tried to tell them that getting ill is a physical thing and that the people who can really help them are the Communist Party and General Secretary Xi,” he added.
The Huangjinbu township gave more than 1,000 portraits of Xi to families.
Officials deny that they suggested religious icons would need to be removed.
But residents have said that officials are calling for the removal of religious artifacts.
“They all have their belief and, of course, they didn’t want to take them down. But there is no way out. If they don’t agree to do so, they won’t be given their quota from the poverty-relief fund,” the resident said.
In October, Xi secured his rule for another term after the National Party Congress did not select a successor to Xi.