The religious department of the provincial government of Henan recently mandated religious believers to sign up for their 'Smart Religion' app. They require them to make an online reservation to attend worship services in mosques, churches, or Buddhist temples.

Implementation of 'Smart Religion' App

A report from the  National Catholic Report stated that the religious department of the provincial government of Henan is in the process of rolling out a system that requires all believers to make online reservations before they are allowed to attend services in Buddhist temples, churches, or mosques.

The Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission of Henan Province is responsible for developing an application known as "Smart Religion," which will be used to attend services at the church. As mentioned, applicants are required to provide personal information before they are allowed to make a reservation. This information includes the applicant's government ID number, permanent residence, name, phone number, profession, and date of birth. Those who wish to enter a house of worship must present a reservation code and have their temperature recorded; this finding lends credence to the theory that the app may be connected to COVID-19 restrictions in some way.

As per the Catholic News Agency, although the Chinese government officially acknowledges Catholicism as one of the country's five recognized religions, an underground Catholic church has persisted in China despite persecution and has remained faithful to Rome. Moreover, government-approved Catholic churches have comparatively more freedom of worship but face other challenges. One of these challenges is pressure from the government to censor parts of Catholic teaching while at the same time preaching Chinese nationalism and love for the party. In China, followers of every stripe and persuasion are subject to surveillance.

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Purpose of the 'Smart Religion' App

The Union Of Catholic of Asian News reported that the online application "Smart Religion" was made available for the first time in August last year. A month after, the Ministry of Ethnic and Religious Affairs of China hosted a symposium in Henan on constructing a religious "big data" management platform. Since then, the application has been made available throughout the entire territory.

It is widely believed that the State Administration of Religious Affairs is the highest governing body of the Chinese Communist Party and the organization responsible for religious affairs in the country. Even though the Chinese government has propagated the idea that these measures are intended to protect the rights of religious people, rights groups say that such measures are part of the Chinese regime's system of monitoring and controlling religions and religious affairs. The goal of the communist authorities is to exercise strict control over beliefs in an all-encompassing manner to make the followers of religions adhere to and carry out the party's ideologies and political purposes.

The government regulates the affairs of religions recognized by the state. In order to avoid facing criminal charges and severe punishments, all members of the priesthood and religious organizations are required to register with the government and adhere to its strict policies.

Accordingly, Atheism is officially declared as the state religion in China. However, it acknowledges the existence of a separate legal organization for each of the five organized faiths: Islam, Catholicism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Protestantism. On the other hand, Open Doors, a global organization that advocates for the protection of Christian rights, placed China at number 16 on its list of the 50 countries where it is the most challenging to be a Christian.

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