Jesus was very clear about the mission to spread Christianity to all the corners of the world: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
China, the fourth largest country in the world and home to millions of Christians, just made that harder for believers.
In an aggressive move to dissuade Chinese Christians from practicing or getting closer to their faith, the country over the weekend banned all online sales of the Bible.
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Chinese President Xi Jinping instead promotes Buddhism and Taoism — even the Quran is still available for purchase online.
But not the Bible.
What is China so afraid of? Maybe the numbers hold a clue.
Sociology professor Fenggang Yang said in 2014 that China would overtake the U.S. to become the “largest Christian country in the world very soon,” by the year 2025, according to the New York Post.
Really concerning to see these steps to further undermine religious freedom in China. We need to be standing up for the rights of the persecuted church worldwide. https://t.co/oDZIIkoc9F
— Tom Hodkinson (@Tom_Hodkinson) April 5, 2018
Online retailers Amazon China, Taobao and JD.com have now ceased selling the Bible to China’s faithful. Some retailers are still offering storybooks, or academic works on the Bible, according to The Sun.
Bible sales were already banned in shops, but church bookstores were still allowed to sell it. The new move flies in the face of a white paper released by the Chinese government last week that promotes religious freedom, saying all faiths must “adapt themselves to the socialist society.”
The paper states, “Religious believers and nonbelievers respect each other, and live in harmony, committing themselves to reform and opening up and the socialist modernization, and contribute to the realization of the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation.”
The ban is causing worries across the globe.
This “is deeply concerning and part of a wider pattern of violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief in China, which includes unregistered ‘house churches,'” a Christian Solidarity Worldwide spokesperson told The Sun. “We are seeing unregistered Christian groups being forced to shut down, and, in some cases, church buildings have been completely demolished.”
The spokesman continued, “At the same time, churches registered with the authorities are also being managed more tightly following the introduction of revised Regulations on Religious Affairs, which came into effect on February 1 [of] this year.”
The Chinese president is waging a campaign to control the faith life of the country’s citizens.
The Chinese president is waging a campaign to control the faith life of the country’s citizens — 1,500 crosses were removed from churches in one province between 2014 and 2016, according to the Post, while the country financially supported Taoist practices.
What would Jesus do? Pray for fellow believers in a land that seems under spiritual siege.
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Deirdre Reilly is a senior editor at LifeZette.