Jesus seems to be making a comeback in the PRC. Since the introduction of Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox missionaries to China, many of them to Shanghai, in the Ming and Qing dynasties, Christianity has been a popular minority religion. While practice abated during Mao’s hay day, China has experienced a resurgence in past years. Just two weeks ago, we reported that Orthodox priests were allowed to lead a service in Shanghai for the first time in over four decades. An article by the Chicago Tribune shows this incident may be indicative of a larger trend of successful Christian advocacy, some of which may challenge the Chinese government’s role as supreme authority over its citizens:
As China’s Christian population has climbed to an estimated 70 million, a growing number of lawyers and scholars have converted to Christianity and turned their skills to the issue of religious freedom. They are teaming up with churches to challenge the government in court, suing for the rights they believe are guaranteed under China’s constitution.
They take inspiration from the American civil rights movement and the ideals symbolized by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. And they hope that holding the country to account for its pledges of religious freedom will nudge China toward greater respect for its citizens’ other rights as well.
The power wielded by the new and growing network of reform groups is significant. In the words of secular reform advocate Li Fan, “Christianity has probably become China’s largest non-governmental organization.”
In other religious news:
- The Christian boom is not just spiritual, but economic. The Nanjing Bible factory we told you about earlier has been featured in the LA Times. It now produces 12 million copies of the holy book in 75 languages each year both for domestic use and for export.
- The Christian movement may be largely independent from the Communist Party, but the government has recently stepped in to aid the cause, announcing plans to rebuild a 100-year-old Catholic seminary destroyed by the Sichuan Province. The building is one of hundreds of places of worship in the area that were toppled in the disaster.
- As the government looks to restore one religious site, it may be haunted by its decision to tear down another. The World Uyghur Congress reported Monday that Chinese authorities in Xinjiang had demolished a mosque in the province for refusing to publicly support the Olympics, one of several recent examples of Muslim-majority tension.
- The Israeli consulate is undertaking the task of documenting the experience of Jews in Shanghai, a community that swelled during WWII with the 20,000 European refugees who fled to the city. While that number has since fallen to 3,000, the two remaining synagogues are references to the Shanghai’s surprisingly rich Jewish history.
Photo from b8b8ng