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ICC Note: The Christian population in China is growing everyday and no matter how much persecution there is, it will continue to grow. This article gives some encouragement about Christianity in China , some much needed encouragement.

Evangelicals, China , and Human Rights

Interview by Collin Hansen

August 31, 2006

What has your reporting taught you about Christianity in China ?

Christianity has certainly been growing since the early 1980s. But in the past there’s been a certain stigma attached to it among some intellectual quarters, because often the Christians have been peasants. It struck me that in the last few years there have been more intellectuals in the cities converting to Christianity.

To some degree Christianity has also become linked to democratic protest in a way that reminds me a lot of South Korea in the 1980s. I think the government is really nervous about how to deal with this. Christianity creates networks of people around the country, which is something that traditionally the Communist Party has not faced. It creates a source of moral authority and legitimacy that is outside the government. In Poland the Communist Party had this terrible problem with the Catholic Church. The Chinese never had anything remotely like that. The Christian church may be the beginnings of such a framework. And the fact that President Bush is a Christian is concerned about Christians in China that gives Christians in China a measure of protection that Falun Gong, for example, does not. China would not get away with beating to death lots and lots of underground Christian church leaders.

In this country we somewhat exaggerate the degree of repression against Christianity. It’s very real, but it tends to be somewhat localized. Your average Christian in China hasn’t been threatened, doesn’t know anybody who’s been beaten up. Christianity to some degree has become cool. It’s become kind of a famous brand in the same way people want to have brand name clothes or carry a brand name purse. There is an element in China of Christianity being a brand name religion.

What are some ways that Christians in America can encourage the growth of Christianity in China ?

I don’t think we should exaggerate our ability to shape what goes on in Chinese society. All those vast efforts to send missionaries to China early in the 20th century really didn’t get very far. The future of faith in China is going to be determined by the Chinese themselves. Where you get Christians who are arrested, beaten up, I think Americans can and should play a role in denouncing those kinds of abuses and speaking out against those kinds of injustices.

But if Christians are perceived as a fifth column or as pawns of Americans, that will discredit it. China is a deeply nationalist country. Americans should also be a little bit leery because Christianity in China covers a huge range. There are also a number of cults that call themselves Christians. When they get in trouble, they try to get help from the West.

Christians shouldn’t only speak up on behalf of Christians who are tortured. Falun Gong is bearing the biggest brunt of religious repression in China . It behooves the American evangelical community to speak up when Falun Gong believers are tortured or their children taken away.

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