Increasing numbers of Chinese are embracing religious and spiritual beliefs across mainland China and in overseas Chinese communities.
Four decades ago, under the late Communist ruler Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, religion was belittled and believers were often persecuted. But today, many Chinese are once again turning to religion. The Chinese government reports that currently more than two-hundred million religious believers are practicing their faith in one-hundred-thousand government-approved churches, mosques, and temples.
Among the fastest growing religious communities are Roman Catholics and Protestants, especially those who belong to the underground Protestant “house” churches not sanctioned by the Chinese authorities. Estimates of their numbers range from nearly eighty-million to one-hundred million, which is a number greater than the seventy-million members of the Chinese Communist Party.
The dramatic revival of religion in China has led to a mixture of accommodation and repression by the Chinese authorities. China’s government, for the most part, forbids organized worship outside state-sanctioned religious organizations. Those who disobey can be punished harshly.
The Chinese government’s repression of unauthorized religious believers could cause further erosion of the Chinese people’s confidence in their government. The Chinese government could restore some of that confidence by protecting religious freedom as stipulated in China’s own constitution.
President George W. Bush made the point in a speech he gave at a university in Beijing in 2002: “Regardless of where or how. . . .believers worship, they are no threat to public order. In fact, they make good citizens. For centuries, [China] has had a tradition of religious tolerance. My prayer is that all persecution will end, so that all in China are free to gather and worship as they wish.”
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.