Growth of Protestants in China: the frustrations of Wang Zuoan
Beijing (AsiaNews) - As news about churches being demolished in Zhejiang (and elsewhere) and Christians arrested and tortured makes global headlines, the Beijing government vows to continue to promote the development of a Chinese Christian theology according to the national policy on religion. This was stated by Wang Zuoan, head of the State Religious Affairs (ASAR).
Speaking two days ago at a seminar in Shanghai, he stressed that "over the past decades, the Protestant churches in China have developed very quickly with the implementation of the country's religious policy. In the future, we will continue to boost the development of Christianity in China".
Of course, clarified Wang, quoted by the China Daily, "the construction of Chinese Christian theology should adapt to China's national condition and integrate with Chinese culture" compatible with "the path of socialism."
The study seminar, titled "The Sinicization of Christianity in Shanghai", he also pitted different figures: the Protestants in China are between "23 and 40 million," or between "1.7 and 2.9% "; Every year 500 thousand people are baptized; There are about 139 thousand registered religious places of worship, of which at least 56 thousand churches.
The seminar part of an event to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the body that unites all denominations of Protestant churches under the auspices of the Communist Party.
But Wang Zuoan's careful proclamations and the glitter of the celebrations mask a certain frustration.
First, because in recent decades the Protestant communities have grown much more than Wang claims and most importantly they have grown in communities outside state control. According to Protestant sources there are about 80 million Christians in China but only about 20 million congregate within registered religious places, so much so that since 2007 there has been a campaign to dissolve the underground Protestant communities or to absorb them into the official community. The rejection of these Christians to join the Three-Self movement lies in the fact that it is too subservient to the Communist Party and does not guarantee a true freedom of the Gospel.
A second element of frustration is due to the fact that now many official Protestant Christian openly criticize the Party's religious policies. This became even more acute after the campaign of demolition and destruction of crosses and churches in Zhejiang, which has seen the active resistance of many of the faithful.
Finally, many Protestant pastors have asked the government to confess to the crimes of Tiananmen as a condition to their adapting "to the conditions of the nation"; Protestant believers join the movement of New citizens to request an end to corruption among party members and true freedom of expression and democracy.
According to some experts, if the current trend of conversions to Christianity continues in 2030 there should be about 250 million Christians in China, about 20% of the population. Perhaps this prediction is causing some frustration.