Inside The Church of Almighty God(全能神): The Most Persecuted Religious Movement in China
Oxford University Press 2020-3
Branded “the new Falun Gong” by local authorities, The Church of Almighty God is today the most persecuted religious movement in China. Thousands of police officers are deployed full time to identify and arrest its members. Hundreds of thousands are in jail. Yet the movement continues to grow. Authorities (perhaps exaggerating) claim it has some four million members. They also accuse it of serious crimes. This book is based on interviews with hundreds of members of the once secretive movement, as well as Chinese police officers hunting it. It presents the movement’s origins and history and its idiosyncratic theology, centered in the belief that Jesus Christ has returned in our time in the shape of a Chinese woman, worshipped as Almighty God, to eradicate the sinful nature of humans. It explores the church’s minimalistic but rich worship practices and tells the dramatic story of its persecution in China. It discusses why the movement grew, and grew so rapidly. It also describes the struggling communities of asylum seekers in various countries and addresses legal and social issues about their status as refugees. A candid look at the criminal accusations, largely fabricated by Chinese propaganda, completes the book. The conclusion places The Church of Almighty God within the context of Xi Jinping’s reshaping of Chinese policy on religions.
Introduction: A Visit to Jeju Island and Other Adventures
1 The Suicide of Ms. Liu and Other Chinese Persecution Stories
2 China’s Struggle against the Xie Jiao
3 The Church of Almighty God
4 Joining The Church of Almighty God
5 Living in The Church of Almighty God
6 Fake News
7 The Red Dragon and the Pastors
8 Escaping China
9 Some Conclusions
Index of Personal Names
Massimo Introvigne, an Italian sociologist, is the managing director of CESNUR, the Center for Studies on New Religions, in Torino, Italy, and the author of some 70 books in the fields of new religious movements and religious pluralism. In 2011, he served as the Representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for combating racism, xenophobia, and intolerance and discrimination against Christians and members of other religions. From 2012 to 2015 he was the chairperson of the Italian Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.