Open Doors Reports on Progress, Persecution, Revival in China

Open Doors Australia released an update this month on the situation of Christians in China, noting that there has been progress, persecution, and revival of the faith.

Over the last 30 years, great progress in religious liberty in China has provided opportunities for Western Christians to serve and witness in the country, Open Doors reported.

More than 46 million Bibles have been legally printed in China since 1988, with the vast majority of them used domestically. The Bibles are sold through the official Protestant churches and have generally met Bible demands in the cities. Some house church Christians have also been able to buy the Bibles.

Moreover, Bibles and Christian literature are also available through many provincial church councils and government bookstores by academic publishing houses.

However, in rural areas, where 80 percent of house church Christians live, there is still a significant shortages of Scriptures, according to Open Doors. Christians living in rural areas face obstacles such as not being able to travel to the cities to buy Bibles, not being able to afford to buy the Scripture, or not wanting to purchase the Bible through registered churches out of concern that they will be required to reveal information about their house church.

“As a result, millions of Christians in China still do not have a personal Bible,” Open Door Australia wrote in its update.

The Christian rights group also reported additional progress of religious freedom for Christians in China such as thousands of Christian teachers teaching English and other subjects in universities. Other encouragements include the rebuilding of seminaries and churches and the establishment of orphanages and charities.

On the other hand, persecution is a real and significant problem to Chinese Christians. Evangelism outside the registered church is illegal, teaching someone under 18-years-old is implicitly prohibited, baptism of minors is forbidden, and children’s programs are severely restricted.

Open Doors noted that some groups exaggerate the levels of persecution faced by the average believers, who face discrimination and harassment, rather than jailings and beatings.

There is also a wide range of tolerance within the country. In some areas, house church Christians can sing as loud as they want and the local government ignores the fact a church is unregistered and illegal. In other areas, house church leaders are arrested, beaten, jailed and meetings are stopped.

“The Christian church of China may not have as many martyrs as Colombia, face as many restrictions as their sisters in Saudi Arabia, or fight as many extremist mobs as their brothers in Indonesia, but the millions of Christians in China remain the world's largest single persecuted community today,” exclaimed Open Doors.

According to the ministry, the growth of Christianity in China – now the world’s largest Christian community – is due to a massive revival in the early 1970s. Estimates indicate that there are a total of between 60-80 million Christians, though the number could be higher.

Only some 23 million Christians worship in the two officially recognized churches of China – the Protestant Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), with over 18 million members, and the Catholic Patriotic Association, with over 5 million members.

“While there are positive, government-approved opportunities to assist Christians who worship in official churches, those opportunities in no way meet the needs of the entire church,” Open Doors concluded. “We must not be misled by government propaganda or half-truths that emanate from Western-visitors-turned-China-experts that echo the official line.”

Open Doors works in over 60 countries delivering Bibles and assisting with pastoral training, literacy training and other activities all for the purpose of strengthening he Persecuted Church.