By George Thomas
August 8, 2008
CBNNews.com - BEIJING - Seven days a week, the machines at the Nanjing Amity Printing Company churn out copies of what some claim is one of China's best-selling books - the Bible.
Forty-three million Bibles have been printed legally in Communist China since 1987. Once a banned book, today some 3 million copies are printed and distributed each year across the country.
And this year, Chinese Christian leaders are hoping to print a special edition of the Bible to make available to the hundreds of thousands of athletes and visitors expected to attend next year's Olympic Games.
Dr. Cao Shengjie of China Christian council oversees the printing of Bibles in China. He said, "And so for this very important occasion, we hope we can print a special edition, maybe the four Gospels in English and Chinese, bilingual."
Lui Bainian, a top leader of China's officially sanctioned Catholic organization, wants to take it a step further and place these Bibles in some of the major hotels in Beijing.
"I want our visitors to know that we have religious freedom here and this is a small step to meet their religious needs during the Olympic," Bainian said.
The Chinese capital has hundreds of hotels. One of the biggest in town, the Minzu hotel, is entertaining the idea of making the Bibles available to Olympic guests.
"We are doing our preparations and once we know where our guests are coming from, we will be ready to meet their spiritual needs," Minzu Hotel General Manager Chen Guoyao said.
The Beijing Olympic Committee is also getting religious. It plans to provide Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim services.
"I think the needs of various religious groups will be taken into consideration and as a matter of fact, for example, inside the Olympic Village, we are going to set up a religious service center," Sun Weide, deputy director of communications for the Beijing Olympic committee said.
Shengjie says it is important for people outside of China, especially Christians, to know the real situation of Christianity in China.
"I think the Olympics is a good opportunity because so many people will come from all over the world. And so they can come and see with their own eyes," he said.
And what they will see is a China that's experiencing unprecedented religious fervor. When athletes and visitors arrive in Beijing next year for the Olympic Games, they will find a city and a nation in the middle of what some are calling a spiritual awakening.
Despite the government's official doctrine of atheism, millions of Chinese are turning to religion.
And as Pat Robertson says, "It's not China our enemy, it's China our friend." Watch the video above for the complete report followed by Robertson's prayer for China.
"People now feel more freer, more open to express their religious convictions," said Tong Shijun, professor of philosophy at East China Normal University.
Tong Shijun teaches at a prominent university in Shanghai. He's just completed the first major survey on religious beliefs in China. And according to his findings, 31.4 percent of those surveyed said they were religious - putting the number of believers in China at about 300 million.
"The increase of the number and the increase of the percentage was quiet large," Shijun said. "Quite dramatic."
Christianity is also growing fast. Twelve percent, or 40 million people, described themselves in the poll as followers of Christianity, much higher than official figures given by the Chinese government.
What is fueling these conversions? Chinese experts say that a growing number of people are turning to religion to better cope with the country's rapid social and economic changes.
Molly Fung works in Beijing's financial district. She recently started going to church. She said she wanted God to give her strength to deal with the pressures of life.
"I think that when I am stronger, I can help others, my friends and my family and tell them how to deal with the pressures," she said.
He Hong is an economics student in Shanghai who recently spent an afternoon at a local Christian bookstore.
"Today in our country, more and more people, especially the young people have a yearning for spirituality" Hong, a Shanghai university student, explained. "So many of my friends feel empty in their hearts. We feel so much pressure to get a job, have a better education."
According to Shengjie, so many of them are turning up at church looking for answers.
"People can easily think that to have a better living and to earn more money is the goal of life but the church, we will tell people that the man does not live by bread alone, we need the Word of God," Shengjie said.
Buddhism, Taoism, and other religions are also experiencing growth. Shijun believes that the government is starting to recognize the role religion could play in society.
"In the last couple of decades the situation is that religious life is recognized to have a positive role in society, generally speaking, as long as these religious groups abide by the national and local laws," he said.
Strict limitations on religion remain, however. For example, China only recognizes government registered churches and considers unregistered house churches illegal.
Still Chinese Christian leaders hope next year's Olympic Games will be an opportunity to showcase China's diverse and growing religious tapestry.
"Our expectation is to have more friendship and fellowship," Shengjie said.
*Original broadcast August 18, 2007.
from: CBN News
Also see: China Publishing Bibles