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Christianity’s growth is reshaping China

Increasing interest in Christianity among Chinese intellectuals is transforming the country’s religious landscape, says Edmond Tang, an academic and consultant on China for British and Irish churches.

"Today it is an open secret that Christian fellowships, a new kind of ‘house church’, run by Chinese professors and students, are active in most Chinese universities," said Tang in comments marking the relaunch of the China Study Journal, a publication analysing religious policy in China.

More than 30 academic faculties and research centres in China are now dedicated to the study of a "once maligned religion", whereas a few years ago there were only three, Tang noted at a 26 March media conference in London. He said he was optimistic about the prospects for faith in China.

Chinese government figures put the number of Protestants at 16 million and Roman Catholics at five million, although it is likely that there are actually three times that number of Christians, said Tang, who heads the Centre for East Asian Christianity at the University of Birmingham.

The China Study Journal is a joint venture of Birmingham University and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, which groups Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant and Pentecostal traditions.

The Churches Together group is responding to the upsurge in faith by expanding its programme of visits and exchanges run by its China desk in association with partners.

Caroline Fielder, the director of CTBI’s China desk, told Ecumenical News International that two areas of recent innovation are prayer links between British churches and Chinese Christian worshippers, and British volunteers who assist their Chinese counterparts in teaching English to rural people.

The China Study Journal is edited by Tang and published twice a year. The current issue contains an evaluation of the 2005 Chinese regulations on religious affairs. Five religions are officially recognised in China: Buddhism, Roman Catholicism, Daoism (Taoism), Islam and Protestantism.

The publication has its roots in a research project begun in the 1970s at the height of the Cultural Revolution, a period when China was cut off from the outside world, and when churches and other religious organizations in China were forbidden, the CTBI noted

(c) Ecumenical News International