Relaymedia

Both Officials and Underground Churches in China Flourish amid Persecution

The two sides regarding religious freedom continues to confuse as reports seemingly conflict, however both sides are flourishing in the number of participants.
( [email protected] ) Jan 03, 2006 06:23 PM EST

The two sides regarding religious freedom continues to confuse as reports seemingly conflict, however both sides are flourishing in the number of participants.

According to Compass Direct, house church leaders in six major cities told them in October that they have "remarkable confidence" in their ministry, a statement shared particularly among the younger generations.

Moreover, the leaders observed that evangelism, training and Sunday Schools are flourishing in their cities, despite tighter restrictions and regulations on religion imposed upon them in March.

The other side -- the official church -- is also flourishing. The government-sanctioned Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) boasts that one million new believers join the TSPM every year, according to official statistics.

Supporting this, Christmas revealed the increasing number of followers attending Christian services, and local governments have announced, according to State-run newspapers, that churches are being built to house the growing number of believers in the official church.

Compass added that government officials tend to use the statistics to convince foreign skeptics that all is well for the churches in China, citing such examples as China's official Bible Exhibition that printed 30 million legal copies within 25 years.

Meanwhile, some overseas Christians and their ministries support China's government-approved churches and have made comments that Chinese believers should cooperate with the laws of China.

In November, well-known evangelist Luis Palau said that Christians should register to receive greater blessings from the government. However, his comment was retracted when he found out about the persecution of Christians through a letter from the house churches.

Recent persecution includes 12 house church leaders arrested in Xinjiang during a Christmas gathering, as reported by the China Aid Association. In the same report, CAA said that a day before, a house church Christmas meeting was disrupted by 6 police officers that said they should go to the government-sanctioned TSPM church meetings instead.

With the growing amount of believers in both the unofficial and official churches, Christianity is becoming more and more accepted.

An example of this would be private Christian bookstores springing up in some cities, and officials turning a blind eye to the Christian activities, Compass reports, which would have been unthinkable a decade ago.

Even though religious freedom has improved in the past twenty years, Compass acknowledges, Christians outside of China and foreigners should not only look at the packed official churches, the thriving seminaries and the availability of religious books to say that there is religious freedom in China, but to consider the unofficial church as well when understanding the condition of the Chinese church, Compass concludes.