Demographic research shows that Communist China may become the world's most Christian nation in the next 15 years, a projection the godless government in Beijing is doing all it can to refute.
In 1949 the number of Christians in the newly communist nation was estimated at just one million. But by 2010, according to the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life, that number had skyrocketed to more than 58 million Protestants alone, compared to 40 million in Brazil and 36 million in South Africa, two traditionally Christian nations.
Fenggang Yang, a professor of sociology at Purdue University and author of Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule, predicted recently that “China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon.” Yang, considered one of the leading experts on faith and religion in China, said that China's Protestant population is set to swell to some 160 million, putting it ahead of the United States, whose Protestant population topped out at around 159 million a few years ago, but which has reportedly been declining as of late.
By 2030, the total number of both Protestant and Catholic Christians in officially atheist Red China could exceed 247 million, putting it ahead of Mexico, Brazil, and the United States as the most Christian nation in the world, predicted Yang.
He said that while China under Chairman Mao brutally repressed Christianity, after Mao's death in 1976 churches slowly began to reopen — most of them underground and off the official radar. “Mao thought he could eliminate religion,” Yang told The Telegraph newspaper (U.K.). “He thought he had accomplished this. It's ironic — they [China's communist regime] didn't. They actually failed completely.”
The Telegraph noted that today across China, “congregations are booming and more Chinese are thought to attend Sunday services each week than do Christians across the whole of Europe.”
In addition to the many Protestant congregations which are sanctioned under the Chinese government's Three-Self Patriotic Movement, there are tens of millions of additional Chinese individuals and families who have opted to worship in the nation's underground churches, an illegal but growing movement that the Beijing government has spent the past nearly four decades trying in vain to eradicate.
Over the past several years the Beijing government has closed several large congregations that had been meeting illegally for decades in warehouses and other buildings, only to have them continue on street corners or in open fields in righteous defiance of the law.
In response to the predictions by Yang and other experts that Beijing is losing its war against Christianity and that China will soon be the world's most Christian nation, Communist Party officials have struck back with claims that the research is “unscientific” and “obviously inflated.”
Ye Xiaowen, a Communist Party member and Beijing's top overseer of religious affairs until 2009, responded to Professor Yang's assertion about China’s Christian future by insisting that “China advocates religious freedom and has no objection to people’s right to follow any religion, but it hopes they can proactively integrate into society.” As for numbers, he said that “it is completely meaningless to predict how many people might believe in Christianity in China in the future.”
However, reported the Telegraph, while Ye insisted in 2009 that China had abandoned its decades-long assault on faith, he conceded that “religion continues to concern us” because of fears by communist officials that it could be used to “overthrow” the Communist Party.
While official Communist Party research put the number of Protestant worshipers in China at a mere 26 million in 2012, “members of China’s 'house church' movement believe the true figure is closer to 80 million, since most Christians are forced to worship in underground churches,” reported The Telegraph, adding, “'We multiply the official number by three,' said one house church leader whose congregations do not feature in government statistics.”
In a related story, the Deseret News reported that not only is China a nation where interest in Christianity is growing, “but it also is one of the world's top Bible publishers — with most of the output going for export consumption.”
According to a May 2013 article in The Economist, China's Amity Printing, a company near Shanghai that is the only firm in China permitted to print Bibles, “has the capacity to produce around 18 million Bibles a year in more than 90 languages, including English, Swahili, Zulu and Russian, as well as Braille editions. The 100-millionth Bible, printed last year, is displayed proudly in the lobby.”
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