Monday, December 29, 2014

China Trying to Keep A Lid on the Growth of Christianity

Christianity growing in China despite reported 
crackdown on independent churches.
Two days before Christmas, members of a rural Christian congregation in eastern China welded pieces of metal into a cross and hoisted it onto the top of a worship hall to replace one that was forcibly removed in October.
Within an hour, township officials and uniformed men barged onto the church ground and tore down the cross.
Pastor Tao Chongyin (l.) speaks with a church member 
in front of the Wuxi Christian Church with the words '
Church of Jesus' in red in Longwan, Wenzhou in eastern 
China's Zhejiang province. Township officials and uniformed 
men barged onto the church ground and tore down the 
cross on Tuesday.
‘‘They keep a very close watch on us, and there is nothing we can do,’’ a church official said Tuesday on condition of anonymity because of fear of government retaliation. ‘‘The situation is not good, as any attempt to reerect the cross will be stopped.’’
That means that the worshipers in Wenzhou city, like many Christians in the eastern province of Zhejiang, worshipped this Christmas under a roof without a cross. Provincial authorities have toppled crosses from more than 400 churches, and even razed some worship halls in a provincewide crackdown on building-code violations.
A man stood near the razed remains of a Catholic church 
last summer in a village in China’s Zhejiang province.
Many Christians say their faith is singled out because authorities, wary of its rapid growth, are seeking to curb its spread in a campaign that has targeted China’s most thriving Christian communities.
Estimates of the number of Christians in China range from the conservative official figure of 23 million to as many as 100 million by independent scholars, raising the possibility that Christians may rival in size the 85 million members of the ruling Communist Party.
In August, Beijing rounded up Christian pastors and religious scholars in a national seminar with the edict that the Christian faith must be free of foreign influence but ‘‘adapt to China,’’ a euphemism for obeying the Communist Party’s rule.
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