Thousands in China are turning their back on communism in favour of obscure Christian sects, one of which worships a female Jesus – and is known to use violence to impose itself, writes Danny Vincent.
Jesus is back and she is opposed to the Chinese communist party.
The Chinese government calls the Church of Almighty God an evil cult. It’s a million-strong doomsday sect that believe Jesus has returned to earth as a middle aged Chinese woman named Lightening Deng.
To ask of her whereabouts is “against the will of God”, to question her preaching is “against the will of God” and to ask too many questions, is ,well “against the will of God”, I am told by Samuel, a 39-year-old member and migrant worker from central China.
The group worship in secret, members never talk on mobile phones and they are banned by the Chinese government. But membership is growing.
Samuel found God in an underground church 10 years ago in his home town.
After converting to the Church of Almighty God he sold his home, gave the money to the sect and moved to Beijing to preach the word of a female Jesus, starting a new life away from his family.
The Church of Almighty God is just one of many off-shoot Christian sects across this atheist nation.
China has more Christians than communist party members. It’s said that more Chinese attend Sunday mass than the whole of Europe combined.
But strict religious control force many churches to operate in secret, providing fertile ground for the growth of off-shoot sects.
What marks the Church of Almighty God apart is that it is warring with the communist party.
It calls the party is the “great red dragon” which it is out to destroy.
But the sect has a history of violence, assassination, murder and poisoning.
In the 1990s believers kidnapped pastors from village churches in an attempt to convert leaders and their flocks.
Watch John Sparks’ full report on Channel 4 News at 7pm.
In May this year a young mother was murdered by members after she refused their advances in a McDonald’s restaurant in Eastern China.
Members say they are victim to government persecution and an aggressive propaganda campaign.
In the countryside Samuel introduces me to his family. They are farmers who believe in the communist party.
They refuse to talk on camera and plead for Samuel to leave the church.
But it is here in the countryside that the sect is at its strongest. I am told they outnumber police in certain counties.
China’s rapid transformation has also left a group behind, and many who once believed unconditionally in the party may now be looking elsewhere for answers.
Filmed by Danny Vincent, directed by Teresa Smith, edited by Agnieska Liggett.