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 AMID GROWING PRESSURE, CHURCHES IN CHINA ‘ARE AT A CRITICAL MOMENT,’ PASTOR SAYS

By Eunice YoonCNN July 2011

Beijing, China (CNN) – The congregants were seated in rows of folding chairs, clasping their hands in prayer or studying passages in their Bibles.

The choir was sitting up front ready to sing on cue. A cross hung behind the pastor. The service looked like a Christian service you would see pretty much anywhere else in the world. But this is Beijing, and the recent Sunday service was illegal.

I couldn’t stop glancing at the door and wonder – are the authorities on their way?

This must be the feeling the people in informal churches here have lived with for decades, I thought.

In China, the government allows religious activity but tightly controls it, requiring Christians to meet at state-approved churches. Many Chinese Christians prefer to worship on their own terms at “house” churches, which generally start as small prayer meetings in people’s homes.

In recent years, the authorities have tolerated these underground churches. In fact, the parishioners CNN spoke to seemed unfazed by their church’s illegal status.

However, Pastor Ezra Jin, the leader of Zion Church, said these churches are now under tremendous pressure – in the midst of China’s crackdown on dissent here in the wake of the Arab Spring.

“We are at a critical moment,” he said. “What we need is communication.”

House churches, he said, cannot afford to stay silent – one of the reasons he granted CNN rare access to film in his banned church.

Jin is concerned that China’s underground churches could become targets of jittery authorities like one of Beijing’s biggest house churches, Shouwang. Over the past several months, Shouwang’s members have been routinely detained and its leaders put under house arrest.

The government defended its actions, saying the congregants were repeatedly gathering illegally in the streets.

Jin finds the development troubling. He and over a dozen other house church leaders have filed a petition to top Communist Party officials calling for greater religious freedoms.

He fears that without dialogue, underground churchgoers could face a fate similar to practitioners of another – heavily persecuted – spiritual group.

“Shouwang’s case could deteriorate into a massive crackdown if not handled properly,” he said. “We are trying to send a message to remind the Communist Party leaders not to inflame this incident, not to tackle it the way they did the Falun Gong.”

The government officially allows freedom of religion but has long been wary of churches, suspicious they could be a source of opposition.

Pastor Jin doesn’t see himself as a threat. He hopes his decision to speak up will foster understanding – and possibly lead to legal recognition of house churches without the government controls.

“We are very aware of what we are doing,” he said. “And we are ready to pay the price.”

He is a man of God now emboldened despite, or perhaps because of, the Chinese government’s heavy hand.

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/07/13/china-christian-crackdown/

GROWTH OF CHRISTIANITY IN CHINA
Since 1949, indigenous Chinese Christianity has been growing at a rate unparalleled in history.  Nicholas D. Kristof,  a columnist of the New York Times wrote on June 25, 2006:

“Although China bans foreign missionaries and sometimes harasses and imprisons Christians, especially in rural areas, Christianity is booming in China.

Most of the growth has taken place in the unofficial Chinese house church movement.

 Christianity also follows Chinese migration.

After 2000, the center of gravity has shifted from the countryside to the cities, spreading Christianity among intellectuals and associating it with modernity, business and science.

In 1800 there were 250,000 baptized Roman Catholics, but no known Protestant believers out of an estimated 362 million Chinese. By 1949, out of an estimated population of 450 million, there were just over 500,000 baptized Protestant Christians.


Anonymous internet columnist Spengler speculated in 2007 that Christianity could “become a Sino-centric religion two generations from now.”


The current number of Christians in China is disputed. 
The most recent  official census enumerated 4 million Roman Catholicism in China” Roman Catholics and 10 million “Protestantism in China”

However, independent estimates have ranged from 40 million to 130 million Christians.

According to “China Aid Association” China Aid Association State Administration for Religious Director Ye Xiaowen reported to audiences at ”Beijing University” Beijing University and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences estimates that the number of Christians in China had risen to 130 million by the end of 2006, including 20 million Catholics.

This has been officially denied by the Foreign Ministry. According to a survey done by China Partner and East China Normal University in Shanghai, there are now 39 to 41 million Protestant Christians in China.

These include Christians in registered and unregistered churches.

All other numbers previously mentioned were rough estimates that never have been substantiated. The survey was done with 7,400 individuals in 2007-08 by China Partner in all 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions.


Another survey done with 4,500 individuals by East China Normal University in Shanghai reveals up to 40 million. This claim needs references to reliable sources from April 2011.

Other studies have suggested that there are roughly 54 million Christians in China, of which 39 million are Protestants and 14 million are Roman Catholics; these areseen as the most common and reliable figures. Today, the Chinese language typically divides Christians into two groups, members of Jidu jiao.. Protestantism, and members of Tianzhu jiao  literally ”Lord of Heaven” ..Catholicism.

With the courtesy of:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_in_China

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