LINFEN, China — Towering eight stories over wheat fields, the Golden Lamp Church was built to serve nearly 50,000 worshippers in the gritty heart of China’s coal country.
But that was before hundreds of police and hired thugs descended on the mega-church, smashing doors and windows, seizing Bibles and sending dozens of worshippers to hospitals with serious injuries, members and activists say
Today, the church’s co-pastors are in jail. The gates to the church complex in the northern province of Shanxi are locked and a police armored personnel vehicle sits outside.
The closure of what may be China’s first mega-church is the most visible sign that the communist government is determined to rein in the rapid spread of Christianity, with a crackdown in recent months that church leaders call the harshest in years.