China’s Communist Party has reportedly threatened to bulldoze Sanjiang church, which officials claim was built illegally, The Telegraph reported. Protestors launched an around-the-clock vigil, forming a human shield to protect the church from demolition.
“I’ve come here today to show my support,” protestor Jin Yufu told The Telegraph. “A church is a sacred place and we are all brothers and sisters.”
Church-goers say the building took six years to build and cost 30 million yuan ($4.8 million.) But some parishioners believe the crackdown came after Xia Baolong, the provincial Party chief, visited the area and was “unimpressed” by the church, The Telegraph reports.
“His behavior is illegal,” protestor Wang Jianfeng said. “He has abused his power. The construction of the church is not against the law.”
China’s atheist Communist Party has had a fraught relationship with Christianity, which appears to be growing in the country. According to Pew Research, 5% of China’s population identified as Christian as of 2011, making it the seventh largest Christian population in the world.
The degree to which these Christians are willing to defend their faith and houses of worship is perhaps best demonstrated by one protestor, 81-year-old He Hongying:
“I slept [in the church] last night and I will do the same again tonight. We pulled two pews together so it was quite all right. We feel at peace and fearless when we are with our God.” Huffington Post