Christians warn against cult influence
Updated: 2012-12-20 01:02
By Li Yao (China Daily)
Government employees hand out pamphlets telling residents to watch out for religious cults in Lushan county, Central China's Henan province, on Tuesday. ZHANG TAO / FOR CHINA DAILY
The Christian community in China condemned the so-called Church of Almighty God and warned believers nationwide to stay vigilant against cult influences.
Kan Baoping, secretary-general of the China Christian Council, said religious leaders should take immediate action to shield their congregations from the cult.
Kan hailed the recent nationwide police crackdown on cult members who are spreading doomsday fears. More than 500 suspects have been detained.
About 400 suspects were detained in Qinghai province alone. Many others have been detained in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, Chongqing municipality, and Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Fujian, Shaanxi, Hubei, Sichuan and Guangdong provinces.
Police nationwide are warning the public to be wary of the cults and their "end of the world" scams.
Almighty God, also known as Lightning from the East, was founded about 20 years ago. It has caused major disturbances, Kan said.
After Friday, the cult's false doomsday prophecy will be proven wrong, Kan said. But it will find other excuses to incite the public, he added.
Zhu Enshuo, a senior pastor in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, said the cult might simply explain away the prophecy failure by saying their "Almighty God" had saved people from the end of the world.
Zhu heard some believers in his church had joined the cult. To prevent further conversions, churches in Ningbo have printed tens of thousands of brochures. Discussions and warnings about the cult have been the major topic during Sunday worship services, Zhu said.
Recent events sent some shock waves through the Christian community. "We realize how little had been done to guard against cult practices. Now we are more alert and will work out response plans," Zhu said.
He said churches can expel former Christians who have become key cult members, and call the police if necessary.
Cai Yinghui, the lead pastor in Shizuishan, Ningxia Hui autonomous region, was deeply worried about the cult's brainwashing power and destructive effects.
As early as in the 1990s, Cai heard a group of local believers had deserted Christianity and joined the outlawed cult after selling their houses and land.
Recently in Shizuishan, Cai saw cult members using a loudspeaker at a public square to spread doomsday rumors and claiming that only their followers could be saved.
Many of them are middle-aged women, Cai said, adding that they come out in the evening, offering free books about Almighty God.
Each of them is said to have converted five or six new members, Cai said.
"They told people not to read the Bible anymore, claiming the Bible is a riddle, and their books provide the solution," Cai said.
The residents are highly impressionable. Although they know little about true Christian beliefs, they consider themselves superior to nonbelievers. Some church-goers took everything the cult members threw at them: stop reading the Bible and pick up the new "godly" books instead, Cai said.
She and more than 100 Christian volunteers will conduct door-to-door visits to raise awareness of the 3,000 believers in her church and collect cult publications.
The cult reportedly started in 1990 in Central China's Henan province. It disseminated the Mayan doomsday prophecy about three days of darkness starting on Friday.