» 06/15/2004 china An ancient church becomes home to two Protestant communities.
Shanghai (AsiaNews) The 135-year old Holy Trinity church will be re-opened soon. For many years authorities have used it as a facility for government offices and as a movie theater. The agency Xinhua spread the news emphasizing how Chinese authorities grant religious freedom in the country. Before the end of the year the "red church" named after the color of the bricks will become home to two official Protestant communities. These are the National Committee of Three-Self (Self-administration, Self-supporting, Self-propagation) Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China, and the China Christian Council.
According to Ding Guangxun, chairman of the two committees, this is another act of the government finalised to favour religious freedom in the country. In truth, some analysts affirm that the re-opening of the church is just a move made by the government in order to control Christian activities. As a matter of fact, Beijing authorities are not comfortable with the increasing number of unofficial communities. Jia Qinglin, president of CPPCC, recently invited the Party to play a more active role in matter of religions. "The Party's committees should organise better their activity by instructing more officers about the religious situation in the country, so that they could help to solve the problems". According to Jia Qinglin, "central authorities should respect people's beliefs and instruct them to accept the leadership of the Party, to support socialism, and to help preserving the prosperity and unity of China". Holy Trinity is the biggest church built in China by the English. It was originally built in 1847, but it was demolished after a short time as people believed the church was a source of "bad luck". The present church was built in 1869.
The re-opening of the church, as well as the official acknowledgment of two Protestant communities, serve to mitigate the persecution against some unregistered Evangelical leaders. Zhao Wenquan, activist of the independent Church of China, was held in prison for three weeks in May. He was charged with "disturbance of the social order" and with "organisation of illegal religious activities". On February 6th, Chen Jingmao leader of the church of Southern China was beaten up by prison guards who broke his legs. He was guilty of converting 50 detainees. Since 2001 Gong Shengliang has been held captive with the charge of practicing "evil cults" and of raping some girls of his community. These girls would have "admitted" the accusations were true after being tortured by the police. According to Shangai government Commission for ethnic and religious matters, there are more than 10 million Christians in the country. The unofficial statistics are very different. According to some Protestant organisations, in China there are 80 million Christians.