Members of an outlawed cult are being detained by authorities across China to stop believers from taking “drastic actions” ahead of what the group says is the end of the world.

The Church of Almighty God says that the world will end on December 21, 2012, its beliefs stemming from an ancient Mayan prophecy. It has urged its members to launch a “decisive battle” to slay the “big red dragon” of the Communist party and also preached the second coming of a female Jesus.

“They are telling everyone that on Friday the sun will rise in the west and then disappear for three days and then there will be 72 days of terrible natural disasters starting from January 1, 2013,” one member told Financial Times. Members who give up their belongings were “promised salvation”.

The group, also known Lightning from the East, was founded in Central China’s Henan province in the early 1990s by a man called Zhao Weishan and operates as a secret underground organization, making it hard to estimate its full size.

Analysts said the crackdown was provoked by the cult’s shift into politics and its calls to “destroy the Communist party.”