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Christianity on decline in China, due to oppression

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In a recent analysis by the Pew Research Center, it has been revealed that the growth of the Christian population in China, which experienced dramatic increases during the 1980s and 1990s, has come to a virtual standstill. This stagnation, according to human rights activists and scholars, can be attributed to the efforts of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in recent years to suppress the practice of Christianity.

Photo credit: Sam Balye

Photo credit: Sam Balye


By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
12/15/2023 (5 months ago)

Published in Asia Pacific

Keywords: Christianity in China, Pew Research Center, religious freedom, Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, Sino-Vatican Agreement

The surge in Christianity in China during the 1980s and 1990s was a result of the relaxation of restrictions on the practice of religion that had been imposed during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. However, the recent Pew survey indicates that between 2010 and 2018, the number of adults identifying as Christian held steady at about 2%, and in 2021, it fell to 1%, although the reliability of the data for 2021 is questioned due to the challenges of conducting surveys during the COVID pandemic.

Human rights activists point to the crackdown on Christianity by CCP leader Xi Jinping as a significant factor in the decline. This crackdown includes strict bans on children's exposure to religion, increased surveillance on churches using facial recognition technology linked to social credit scores, restrictions on Bibles, and the detention of Christian bishops and pastors. The state has also censored sermons to align with Xi's ideology.

Scholars, however, express skepticism about the reliability of the survey data, suggesting that Christians in China, fearing for their safety, may refuse to respond to polls. Despite this, the impact of the Chinese government's efforts to suppress the growth of Christianity cannot be underestimated.

Xi Jinping's stated goal is to bring all religions in China under the direct control of the CCP and make them serve its purposes. Any religion that does not align with the party's ideology is considered "backward" and engaged in "illegal religious activities." The Catholic community, in particular, has faced widespread persecution, with Catholics being denied membership in the military or the Communist Party.

The Sino-Vatican Agreement signed in 2018, aimed at regulating the appointment of bishops, has faced criticism. Scholars argue that the agreement has not expanded the Church in China but has instead been used by the CCP to gradually diminish the Catholic Church's influence. With a significant number of CCP-defined dioceses lacking bishops, and many existing bishops approaching retirement age, the agreement's impact on addressing the attrition remains questionable.

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