How many Christians are there in China?
Open Doors estimates that there are around 97.2 million Christians in China. China is a huge country, with around 1.4 billion people, and so Christians only make up around seven per cent of the total population.
Why are Christians persecuted in China?
The goal of the Communist Party of China, led by President Xi Jinping, is to maintain its power through national unity – including the control of all religions. Since the Communist Party took over the implementation of the regulations on religion, the treatment of religious groups has become much harsher. Christians are a particular focus because they are the largest social force in China that isn’t controlled by the state.
Christians from Muslim or Tibetan Buddhist backgrounds also face rejection and attack by their communities, as leaving their traditional religions is seen as a betrayal.
“By the last day of confinement, I had made peace with myself and with God. It was settled. I knew without a doubt that no matter what happened I would serve the Lord.” Jin, China
What’s life like for Christians in China?
Pastor Jin, who now leads an unregistered church, was arrested and placed in solitary confinement for ten days after the police burst into a church meeting. Up until that point, his church had enjoyed relative freedom and mostly went untroubled by the increasing restrictions placed on Christians by the Chinese government.
Those ten days in isolation caused Jin to not only recognise the severity of the situation, but also made him confront his own doubts about his faith. He says, “By the end of my time in detention I had whittled the battle in my mind down to one crucial question: If I am called of God, am I really willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of the gospel? For the Lord Jesus?”
As Pastor Jin discovered, the situation for Christians has deteriorated all over China. Churches are monitored, and some have been attacked by the security forces or closed down. Church leaders are detained. Children under 18 are banned from attending church. Religion is banned from the public sphere, and teachers and medical staff have been pressured to sign documents saying they have no religious faith. The online sale of Bibles was banned in 2018.
Believers from Muslim or Tibetan Buddhist backgrounds often keep their faith a secret. They may hide their Bibles, and it can be difficult for them to meet with other believers safely. If discovered, they may be threatened, beaten, or even reported to the authorities and imprisoned for a few days.
Although the coronavirus has stopped churches in China from meeting together physically, believers have been relishing the unique opportunities online church has brought - for example, being able to reach more people. Furthermore, the crisis has brought changes to the way leaders preach. Rather than going through the Bible ‘step by step’, at some distance from their lives, leaders are seeing the vibrant reality of scripture and how it relates to their lives, “depending on the situation of the church, the needs of the people, and the epidemic’s situation,” says one pastor. “We preach about these. So, the church is greatly encouraged. And the preaching is watched and listened to by many other churches in China. It brings them comfort as well."
How can I help Christians in China
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in China. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors supports persecuted believers in China through training in discipleship, stewardship and how to face persecution, and by providing contextualised Christian literature.
Is it getting harder to be a Christian in China?
Yes. The situation in China continues to worsen as more and more churches in China are experiencing pressure at the hands of the Chinese state. Last year, over 5,500 churches were destroyed, closed down or confiscated. China has risen 20 places on the World Watch List in just two years.
Lord Jesus, thank You that, despite the increasing persecution in China, You are drawing more and more people to Yourself. May Your love reach the younger generation despite the ban on church attendance, and strengthen believers who are being monitored by the government. May the whole of China have the opportunity to respond to the gospel. Amen.