Many of China's churches are overflowing, despite increasing government attempts to curb them, according to multiple sources.
BBC reported this week that more people attend Church on Sunday in China than in the whole of Europe. Many people are also converting to Christianity, the station said.
“Churches continue to fill, the faithful continue to pray the rosary and chant old Chinese hymns,” Anthony Clark, an Asian history professor at Whitworth University wrote in a blog post last week.
“After Sunday Mass at Beijing's largest and oldest church, Beitang (North Church), well over a thousand faithful filed out of their pews into the Chinese-style courtyard,” he described.
There are 25 million Christians in China, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics; 18 million are Protestant and six million Catholic.
However that number is largely underestimated, and most commentators believe the figure lies closer to 60 million.
Though the exact current number of Christians is not known, experts agree that it is growing at a fast pace. There were some 500,000 baptized Protestant Christians in the country in 1949.
Last year, a State Administration for Religious Affairs official told BBC: “There are now at least 20 million Protestant Christians in China worshipping in the state-sanctioned church.”
According to the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding, the1949 revolution, “While producing an enormous crisis in the church, also provoked a rethink which led, in the 1970s and 1980s, to a quite unexpected resurgence of Christianity.”
Most importantly, the Society stated, Christianity in China is free of foreign control and is increasingly accepted as a Chinese religion.
But the state exercises strong control over the Church, and as the Church grows, so does the level of control.
Last week’s International Freedom Report prepared by the U.S. Dept. of State stated that China violates its citizens’ rights to worship freely.
As reported by The Christian Post last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has commented on the report, saying the violations of religious freedom in China are getting worse. She also said that one of the State Department’s goals in releasing the report is to spotlight these violations.