Thousands of Christians in an impoverished county in rural southeast China have swapped their posters of Jesus for portraits of President Xi Jinping as part of a local government poverty-relief program that seeks to “transform believers in religion into believers in the party.” Located on the edge of Poyang, China’s largest freshwater lake, Yugan county in Jiangxi province is known equally for its poverty and its large Christian community, according to the South China Morning Post. More than 11% of its 1 million residents live below the country’s official poverty line, while nearly 10% of its population is Christian, according to official data. But as the local government redoubles its efforts to alleviate poverty, many believers have been told to take down the images of Jesus, the crosses and the gospel couplets that form the centerpieces of their homes, and hang portraits of Xi instead. Under Xi, the ruling Communist Party has made ending poverty by 2020 a top priority.
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