More than a dozen Bible Society donors traveled to China last week to see first hand how the Scripture is being printed and distributed in the country that boasts one of the world's fastest growing Christian populations.
The 17 supporters, accompanied by three Bible Society staff, departed from Sydney, Australia, on Thursday for the two-week trip that includes visits to local churches, seminaries and local Bible study groups within rural congregations. Participants will help with the distribution of 10,000 Bibles into Nanjing, Xian, Zhengzhou and Shanghai, China.
"China is experiencing a great freedom of worship," said Bible Society CEO, Daniel Willis. "With this wonderful change the Church is spreading rapidly with the number of Christians in China now estimated to be over 100 million."
The Bible Society works with Amity Printing Company, China's only state-approved Christian publisher, to provide Bibles to the Chinese people. Chinese Christians can only legally obtain Bibles printed by Amity and distributed by state-registered churches.
In communist China, Christians are not allowed complete freedom of worship in the sense that they can only legally worship in churches belonging to the government-sanctioned Protestant body, the China Christian Council/Three Self Patriotic Movement (CCC/TSPM), or its Catholic counterpart.
Underground Christians, or those belonging to churches not registered with the government, are frequently harassed, imprisoned and even tortured. The number of underground protestant Christians is estimated to be as high as 100 million.
But despite its shortcomings, China often boasts about its respect for religious freedom – which has improved significantly in the past decade – while denying or playing down violations.
China has been especially proud of its Amity Printing Company, which last year became the world's largest Bible printing facility after expanding its facility. Amity says that its new facility can print up to 12 million Bibles a year, up from 6 million the previous year.
"Each Chinese Christian would like to experience the joy, peace and inspiration that owning their own Bible brings – but unfortunately for many, obtaining a Bible is difficult and often out of their reach financially," said Bible Society CEO Willis.
"Our goal is to break down the barriers of distance and isolation and make Bibles available to our Chinese brothers and sisters in Christ," he said. "Those on the tour will be able to share in the joy of a fellow Christian receiving a copy of God's Word for the first time."
Bible Society, with the approval of the Chinese government, has been printing and distributing Bibles through Amity Press since 1987. During that period, more than 40 million Bibles have been printed and distributed within China.
The China Bible distribution tour will end on April 30, with the Bible Society planning another similar trip in October.