… and so says the — surprise, surprise — China Daily! This most unlikely piece of news comes from the nation’s favourite English paper shortly after we heard that China Philharmonic’s been performing for the Pope:
Evangelist Franklin Graham said in Beijing on Friday that he wants his organizations to become more involved in China.
The CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, established by and named after his father, and the international Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, said he wanted to see the groups working not only on humanitarian projects in remote areas, but also alongside churches in China.
Franklin, whose mother was born in China and whose grandparents worked as medics in the country for 25 years, was speaking at a press briefing in the capital.
He is on his first visit to China as head of the organizations and over the past two days has met with church leaders and officials.
In January, representatives of Samaritan’s Purse helped with relief efforts in South China following the most severe snowstorms in a decade.
Over the past 20 years, China’s economic landscape and its religious policy have changed considerably, Graham said.
He first visited the country with his parents in 1988.
“The government of China is recognizing more and more that religious freedom is important, and is seeing the value of personal faith,” he said.
Graham will visit Hangzhou, Nanjing and Shanghai.
The above story is surprising in that the government officially restricts foreigners from mixing with locals on religious grounds. Case in point: Chinese nationals are forbidden from joining foreign-language services for expatriates. The last evangelist we can think of who received coverage by the Chinese press was Luis Palau. Comments made by Palau on his trip to China led to a controversy back home.
In related news, President Hu has chosen to end his tour of Japan with temple tours, and even “bowed in respect before a statue of a Chinese Buddhist monk in Toshodaiji temple”, apparently to deflect criticism that the Chinese government is anti-religion.
Previously on Shanghaiist:
China home to the world’s largest Christian population?