Perspective: From Ancient Times to Modern Day, Religious Persecution Has Invited Dire Consequences

History is filled with persecutions of righteous faiths being met with plagues, natural disasters, and other consequences. Below are a few examples.


Fate of a Young Emperor

The Buddhist book Fuyuan Zhulin from the Tang Dynasty recorded the story of Zhao Wenchang, a high-ranking official in the Sui Dynasty, who suddenly died in 591 AD. Noticing his heart was still warm, his family did not put him in the coffin right away. Zhao later came back to life and told his family what he had experienced.

Zhao went to hell and saw its king, Yan Luo. Impressed by his familiarity with Buddhist scriptures, the king allowed him to return to the world of the living.

While in hell, Zhao saw two people. One was Bai Qi, an infamous general during the Warring States Period who gave orders to kill 450,000 enemy soldiers during the Battle of Changping (261 BC), including 200,000 who had surrendered. Bai was detained in a cesspool with his hair visible on the surface. Over 800 years had passed, and he was still suffering for his karma from killing innocent lives.

Another person Zhao saw was Yuwen Yong. Also known as Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou, he reigned from 561 to 578 AD. After becoming emperor at the age of 18, he worked diligently and thriftily. However, he decided to eradicate both Buddhism and Taoism. In 577 AD, he ordered the destruction of Buddha statues and scriptures in about 40,000 temples, forcible secularisation of three million monks and nuns, and confiscation of their lands.

The next year, the emperor became severely ill and his entire body festered. He died miserably at 35. Within three years, the dynasty ended and was replaced by the Sui Dynasty.

When the former emperor saw Zhao in hell, he told him that many of his wrongdoings could be pardoned by the divine, but his suppression of Buddhism and Taoism could not. He hoped Zhao could tell the Sui emperor to do more good deeds on his behalf so that his pain could be relieved.


Three More Emperors Meet Similar Fates

The above story was recorded in Taiping Guangji, a renowned history book compiled in the Song Dynasty. Other than Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou, three other emperors in Chinese history also suppressed Buddhism. All of them faced serious consequences.

Tuoba Tao (Emperor Taiwu of Northern Wei, who reigned between 423 and 452) died at 45, and his two sons were also killed. Senior official Cui Hao, who recommended for the emperor to kill all monks, was whipped and had ten guards urinate in his mouth before he was executed. Similarly, Emperor Wuzong of Tang tried to eradicate Buddhism five years after his reign (845), destroying over 40,000 temples. He died at 32 the next year in extreme pain, with a swollen head, bulging eyes, and ulcers all over.

Cai Rong, also known as Emperor Shizong of Later Zhou, met a similar fate. One year after becoming emperor, he gave orders in 955 to suppress Buddhism. More than 30,000 temples were demolished as a result. Zhenzhou (in today’s Hebei Province) had a Bodhisattva Guanyin statue that no one dared to touch. The emperor personally took an ax to the statue’s chest. Four years later, he died at 39 with ulcers on his chest.


Persecution of Christianity in Ancient Rome

After the Great Fire of Rome in July 64 AD, Nero accused innocent Christians of arson. He and other Roman emperors ordered for Christians to be put in arenas to feed the lions or be burnt as human torches in the garden. Determined believers were detained and tortured.

“They were covered with the hides of wild beasts, and worried to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and when the day waned, burned to serve for the evening lights,” wrote Annals by Roman historian Tacitus, who was a boy at the time. “Nero offered his own garden players for the spectacle, and exhibited a Circensian game, indiscriminately mingling with the common people in the dress of a charioteer, or else standing in his chariot.”

Four years later, Nero was declared a public enemy and died in 68 AD. But the persecution of Christians continued. Historians have documented numerous plagues in the Roman Empire. Among them, the Antonine Plague (165-180) alone killed about five million people, while the Plague of Cyprian (250-271) took the lives of 5,000 in Rome alone. The Justinian plague (541-542), on the other hand, led to an estimated 30-50 million deaths.

John of Ephesus, bishop and historian, witnessed the Justinian plague and described in Part 2 of Chronicle:

—staging-posts on the roads full of darkness and solitude filling with fright everyone who happened to enter and leave them;—cattle abandoned and roaming scattered over the mountains with nobody to gather them;—flocks of sheep, goats, oxen and pigs which had become like wild animals, having forgotten [life in] a cultivated land and the human voice which used to lead them;—areas that were tilled and full of all kinds of fruits [which] had become overripe and fallen for lack of anyone to gather [them];

John wrote that people could remember the terror and learn from these lessons. By being wiser, they would be able to stay away from these troubles and suffering.


Modern China

In China, the biggest persecution of belief is the suppression of Falun Gong, a meditation discipline based on the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance.

Since July 1999, tens of millions of Falun Gong practitioners have been persecuted and discriminated against in China. A large number have been detained, imprisoned, and tortured for their belief. Many have also been subjected to psychiatric abuse and forced organ harvesting.

Mr. Wang Xinchun, a resident in Heilongjiang Province, was detained and harassed countless times for upholding his faith in Falun Gong. When the police arrested him in January 2002, Wang fell in a river, and both of his feet were frozen. The police forced him to put his feet in warm water, which caused him to lose both feet at 26.

After continued detention, threats, and torture, Mr. Wang died miserably at 43 in April 2019. Both his parents died of stress and grief.

Another tragedy was that of Mr. Ding Gangzi in Hebei Province. While detained, he was beaten, shocked with electric batons, cuffed and shackled, and malnourished. The guards ignored him when he was in critical condition. Mr. Ding died at 47 on June 11, 2001.

The guards then took Mr. Ding’s body, still in handcuffs and foot shackles, to the county hospital, falsely claiming that he needed emergency treatment. The hospital determined that Mr. Ding had died days prior. Because his corpse was decomposing and attracting flies, the hospital wanted to send it straight to the morgue. However, the police forced the doctors to “resuscitate” him and give him infusions. The doctors pretended to treat the patient and found that he had “no breathing, no heartbeat, and no returned blood during transfusion.” The police also forced the doctors to provide false evidence by filling out a report claiming Mr. Ding “died after failed emergency treatment.”

SARS broke out in China in 2003, followed by the novel coronavirus in late 2019. If history is any indication, these epidemics did not occur without a reason. Instead of learning from history, the Chinese Communist Party has intensified its persecution of Falun Gong amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In the first half of 2020 alone, 5,313 practitioners were targeted for their faith, and some of them were arrested for telling people that the CCP has been using the same cover-up tactics in its handling of the outbreak as in its persecution of Falun Gong.

We hope that people can see through the CCP’s deceit and stand up against the persecution so as to have a safe way out of the pandemic.