Christmas in China Reveals the Demand for Churches

As millions celebrated Christmas this year, there is an increasing demand for state-run churches in China.
( [email protected] ) Dec 26, 2005 05:26 PM EST

As millions celebrated Christmas this year, there is an increasing demand for state-run churches in China.

State-approved churches in Beijing reported to the Agence France Presse that a larger crowd came for Christmas service than previous years, with many of them packing the aisles or standing outside churches watching services on TV monitors.

Dai Jing, a nun at Nantang Catholic church in Beijing commented on this and said that there are still not enough legal churches.

"We've been communicating with government to try to get them to increase venues for religious activities," she said, according to AFP.

Official statistics record that there are 20 million Protestants and five million Catholics registered in the state-approved churches, while the number in unregistered churches is believed to exceed that number, carrying over 10 million for the Catholics and a far larger number for Protestant believers.

Underground Catholics and Protestants are Christians that refuse to register with the government because of restrictions placed on their worships to God. For instance, certain teachings and evangelism are forbidden, meanwhile Catholics are not to recognize the Pontiff.

Their Christmas services are spent clandestinely at restaurants, homes, or even farm fields in rural areas, in order to avoid detection.

In recent years, local governments have restored or built more churches, partly due to the growing demand, and based on worries that insufficient churches will drive worshipers underground, AFP reports.

To meet the demand, construction of three churches are expected to finish next year in the districts of Fengtai, Haidian and Yanqing, Yu Lixin, a senior priest with the Christian Association of China told the Xinhua.

Meanwhile, a growing number of Chinese people are turning to religion for spiritual support.

A nun from Nantang church by the surname of Yu told AFP that it is "mainly because people are facing increasing pressures in life. They want to find something that brings them peace and balance."