The only printing company authorized to print the Bible in China announced Thursday that the nation has now printed over 100 million copies of the Christian scriptures.
Qiu Zhonghui, chairman of the board of Amity Printing Co. Ltd., said the 100 millionth copy was printed back in July, Xinhuanet reports. His company has printed 60 million Bibles (including nine separate ethnic minority language editions) and provided 40 million copies in more than 90 languages to about 70 different countries and regions around the world.
Amity Printing has been publishing the Holy Bible since 1988, when the company was started as a joint venture between the United Bible Societies (UBS) and the Amity Foundation.
On Tuesday, UBS leaders and a number of Bible Societies donors joined government officials from the State of Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) and the Chinese Christian Council/Three-Self Patriotic Movement (CCC/TSPM) for a ceremony celebrating the over 60 million Bibles that have been distributed throughout China alone.
Michael Perreau, general secretary for UBS, thanked SARA leaders and the Chinese government for their support of UBS's partnership with the Chinese church.
"In today's fast-paced digitized world where there's so much spiritual hunger and poverty, many still yearn for relational and spiritual connectivity," said Perreau, according to an article on the UBS website. "More than 2000 languages in the world are still without a translation of the Bible, while many poor Christians in the rural areas of China are still waiting to receive their first Bible. Therefore, it is my hope that through this long-standing relationship, UBS will find continuing opportunities to make a difference in the lives of the Chinese people."
China has more than 16 million Christians today, the Xinhuanet report states, as well as 1,800 seminarians in 18 Bible schools. It also has 55,000 churches and gathering venues, 100,000 church volunteers and 36,000 missionaries.
But some believe the number of Christians in China is actually much higher than the country's government has said due to the large number of Christians who worship separately from churches run by the government. An article that appeared in the May 2011 issue of First Things magazine, and was written by social sciences professors, combines a number of different surveys to suggest that there may have been about 70 million Christians living in China in 2011.
In 2010, the U.K.-based Bible Society reported that the growth of the church in China was too rapid for the Bible publisher to keep up with. Christians living in rural areas, or those who don't belong to CCC/TSPM churches, are often forced to live their faith without the book. Not all bookstores in China are permitted to sell the scriptures either, and there are only about 70 sales outlets where they can be purchased.
The church in China still faces many challenges. Even if there were 70 million believers, Christians would only make up just over five percent of country's population. Open Doors USA also has China listed as 21 on its World Watch List for Christian persecution, as the government continues to persecute church groups not affiliated with the state's church organizations.