God finding home in Godless China

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Officially, the People’s Republic of China is an atheist country but that is changing fast as many of its 1.3 billion citizens seek meaning and spiritual comfort that neither communism nor capitalism seem to have supplied. Christian congregations in particular have skyrocketed since churches began reopening when Chairman Mao’s death in 1976 signalled the end of the Cultural Revolution. …

Government-approved and underground Christian churches in communist China continue to experience rapid growth. / ALAMY

Government-approved and underground Christian churches in communist China continue to experience rapid growth. / ALAMY

A recent study found that online searches for the words “Christian Congregation” and “Jesus” far outnumbered those for “The Communist Party” and “Xi Jinping”, China’s president. Among China’s Protestants are also many millions who worship at illegal underground “house churches”, which hold unsupervised services – often in people’s homes – in an attempt to evade the prying eyes of the Communist Party. …

Yet others within China’s leadership worry about how the religious landscape might shape its political future, and its possible impact on the Communist Party’s grip on power, despite the clause in the country’s 1982 constitution that guarantees citizens the right to engage in “normal religious activities”.

As a result, a close watch is still kept on churchgoers, and preachers are routinely monitored to ensure their sermons do not diverge from what the Party considers acceptable. …

Churches were likely to face an increasingly “intense” struggle over coming decade as the Communist Party sought to stifle Christianity’s rise, [an underground church leader] predicted.

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