Chinese Christian reading the Bible
Chinese officials have announced athletes who compete in the 2008 Beijing Games will be banned from having Bibles in their Olympic village housing, and even visitors are being warned not to bring more than a single Bible with them when they come to China.
According to a report from the Catholic News Agency, Bibles will be among the list of “prohibited objects” for athletes at the Beijing housing complexes being built now for the thousands of athletes expected to participate.
“According to the Italian daily La Gazzetta dello Sport, organizers have cited ‘security reasons’ and have prohibited athletes from bearing any kind of religious symbol at Olympic facilities,” the report said.
Also banned will be video cameras and cups, the report said.
“The Spanish daily La Razon said the rule was one of a number of ‘signs of censure and intolerance’ towards religious objects, particularly those used by Christians in China,” the report said. “Currently in China five bishops and 15 priests are in prison for opposing the official [government-run] church.”
Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs, whose Bibles Unbound program offers American citizens the option of mailing Bibles into China, said it’s not illegal for an individual to own a Bible in China.
But he said the government there controls access to Bibles by restricting imports and controlling the actual printing of Bibles within China.
The Bibles Unbound program is perfectly legal, even within China, he said. “We are not breaking Chinese law to send one New Testament to one person,” but he said the number of Bibles needed is overwhelming.
On a Voice of the Martyrs blog, that specific issue was the topic of discussion.
Nettleton said a recent report noted the Chinese press has been trumpeting the fact that the government-controlled Bible printer, Nanjing Amity Printing Co., had printed 43 million Bibles between 1981 and 2006, about 1.7 million a year.
“Now 43 million sounds like a large number. But remember that there are more than 100 million Christians in China,” said the blog posting. “That means that, over a 25-year period, the government didn’t even print enough Bibles for half the Christians to have one!”
“One of our contacts who works regularly in China, (I will not share her name for security reasons) offered some very good reminders about the battle to bring God’s Word to the many millions who need it and want it in China,” the posting said.
Some points to remember:
1. Comparatively few Christians have access to computers and the Internet on a regular basis so Internet Bibles cannot reach (all of) the nation.
2. Not only can I legally buy a Bible in my city, I can buy 10. Problem is I don’t need 10 Bibles in the cities where those bookstores exist, I need 10 million Bibles in the countryside. In most cases, if you go to a legal Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) bookstore and order many copies, the authorities will follow you home, and sometimes arrest you for doing so. (This is our experience.)
3. If there are 100 million Christians in China, and one Bible lasts five years (I don’t exactly know about this longevity number), this means that we need 20 million new Bibles every year just to replace the ones being worn out. (Remember, Chinese Christians actually read their Bible every day and they travel much and they live in harsh environments, so a Bible does not last as long as in the USA where we use it mostly on Sundays and in a clean environment.)
The VOM blog by Nettleton then continued: “Friends, you will read much in the months between now and the Beijing Olympics about how FREE it is in China, how oppression and persecution have gone into the past and how our brothers and sisters are living and worshipping in freedom and ease. Unfortunately, at times you will read such stories even from reputable Christian sources. Our friends in the unregistered churches … and in Chinese prisons … have a very different story to tell. Do not forget them.”
He said Americans have no idea how much the Chinese government monitors and how much it wants to control the information that could affect its image.
“I was in Beijing 3-4 years ago, watching CNN, a story about AIDS in China,” he told WND. “Then the screen goes blank and it’s blank for 4-5 minutes. CNN comes back on… You know somebody else watching.”
The official website for the 2008 Games is where the advisory for visitors to not bring multiple Bibles is documented.
On a page of information about entry into China, it advises visitors have to pass certain checkpoints for visa, passport and health declaration forms.
Luggage also will be inspected for food, biological products, blood, or animals that may “spread infectious diseases,” the webside said.
“Note: Each travel[er] is recommended to take no more than one Bible into China,” the advisory adds.
A spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee, Darryl Seibel, told WND that he had not seen any list, but typically the items that are prohibited are those that pose a “security risk,” such as those items banned from airplanes.
“Beyond that, there aren’t too many items banned,” he said.
WND previously has reported how more than 100 foreign Christians in China were expelled in just a 90-day period, the biggest assault on the presence of Christianity in China since 1954.
The report from the Voice of the Martyrs said most of those who have been expelled are from the United States, South Korea, Singapore, Canada, Australia or Israel, and had been working in or visiting Zinjiang, Beijing, Tibet and Shandong.
A Christian who had worked in Xinjiang for 10 years told a VOM source that more than 60 foreign religious workers, many who had served people in the area for more than 15 years, were expelled from Zinjiang alone.
WND also has reported officials also are confirming an increase in arrests of Chinese house-church pastors and leaders, who have been accused of being “suspects using evil cults to obstruct the enforcement of the law.”
VOM reported that the campaign against Christians is called Typhoon No. 5, and “is part of the Chinese government’s efforts to prevent foreign Christians from engaging in mission activities before the Beijing Olympics in 2008.”
“This is the largest expulsion of foreign missionaries since 1954 when the Chinese Communist government expelled all foreign religious workers after taking power in 1949,” reported a VOM source. “At least five different mission agencies and sources within the Chinese government report that in February, the government launched a massive expulsion campaign against foreign Christians.”
“In spite of the public face of religious freedom the Chinese government tries to convey through its state run system, the arrests of Chinese Christians, and now the expulsion of active Christian visitors is a demonstration of their true nature,” said Tom White, executive director for Voice of the Martyrs.
The government’s effort, however, is facing an uphill battle, because of estimates, as WND has reported, that 3,000 people are being added daily to the Christian church in China, mostly the house-churches that do not register with the government and therefore are considered part of those “evil cult activities.”
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