News / Asia

    Pope’s Korea Trip Also Puts Focus on Rise of Christianity in China

    Pope’s Asia Trip Puts Focus on China's Growing Christian Populationi
    X
    Jerome Socolovsky
    August 13, 2014 8:54 PM
    Pope Francis is visiting South Korea (from Aug 14-18), where he will honor martyrs who helped bring Catholicism to that country. But some Vatican watchers say the pontiff also wants to send a message to China, an officially atheist country, where experts say there are at least 30 million Christians. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky has this report on how Chinese Christians in the U.S. view conditions in their former homeland.

    Pope Francis has arrived in Seoul Thursday marking the first trip to Asia by a pontiff in more than a quarter century. He will honor martyrs in South Korea who helped bring Catholicism to that country, but some Vatican watchers believe the visit is also intended to send a message to China, where the Christian population is growing rapidly even though it is officially an atheist nation.

    Christianity has a long and difficult history in China - since it was brought by European missionaries who followed in the wake of British gunboats in the opium wars of the mid-19th century.

    Because of that history, Carsten Vala of Loyola University Maryland told a recent seminar at the Brookings Institution in Washington, “there’s an association not only in party propaganda, but in the popular imagination, that the gunboat and the Bible, go together.”

    A Chinese aphorism against conversion holds that “one more Christian is one less Chinese,” and Christianity is often presented as alien to Chinese culture. But experts note that Marxism, not to mention Buddhism, also began abroad, and Christianity has grown since the death of Chairman Mao in 1976 and the end of his “Cultural Revolution,” which sought to cleanse society of religion and other supposedly bourgeois practices.

    Lately the pace of growth has been breathtaking. The number of Christians has more than tripled since 1996 when it was estimated at 10 million. Pew Research Center puts the current population at twice that, at 60 million. And one expert, Purdue University professor Fenggang Yang, even goes so far as to predict that by 2030 China will be the largest Christian country in the world.

    While many question Yang’s prediction - conversions are proceeding apace. Vala of Loyola University says a sizable share of the current Christian population is made up of people who have belonged to the faith for less than 10 years. And there has been tremendous interest among intellectuals.

    Author and dissident Yu Jie converted around a decade ago before coming to the U.S.  He traces Christianity’s rise to the bloody suppression of the democracy movement in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

    “After Tiananmen, no one believes the Chinese Communist party and its Marxist and Maoist theories,” he said in an interview at the Washington Harvest Christian Church in Chantilly, Virginia.

    Increasing urbanization has uprooted Chinese from rural traditions while civil society is lacking in the cities, Yu said.

    “Chinese people are not allowed to choose their political leader,” he said. “But they are able to select their pastors and elders in more and more churches.”

    China has officially recognized churches that are loyal to the party. But many Christians belong to underground religious communities known as “house churches.”

    Videos have been circulating of dozens of crosses being removed from house churches as well as outright demolitions. Chinese authorities say the bulldozing was prompted by zoning violations.

    In Washington, the former pastor of Harvest church, Zhang Bo Li, spoke of a systematic crackdown on Christianity in China.

    “The stronger the persecution, the purer the church will become. The more persecutions, the more lively the churches will become,” he said.

    Pope Francis waves as he boards his plane to leave for his pastoral visit to South Korea, at the Fiumicino airport in Rome, Aug. 13, 2014.Pope Francis waves as he boards his plane to leave for his pastoral visit to South Korea, at the Fiumicino airport in Rome, Aug. 13, 2014.
    x
    Pope Francis waves as he boards his plane to leave for his pastoral visit to South Korea, at the Fiumicino airport in Rome, Aug. 13, 2014.
    Pope Francis waves as he boards his plane to leave for his pastoral visit to South Korea, at the Fiumicino airport in Rome, Aug. 13, 2014.

    The last pope to visit East Asia was John Paul II, who went to Korea in 1984 and 1989. He is often credited with speeding the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe.

    Yu, the author, argues that South Korea can serve as a model for China because the development of Christianity there helped foster democracy, and did not destroy the local culture.

    “So, in my opinion,” he said, “one more Christian is one more good Chinese citizen.”

    You May Like

    Russia Sees Brexit Impact Widespread but Temporary

    Officials, citizens react to Britain’s vote to exit European Union with mix of pleasure, understanding and concern

    Obama Encourages Entrepreneurs to Seek Global Interconnection

    President tells entrepreneurs at global summit at Stanford University to find mentors, push ahead with new ideas on day after Britain voters decide to exit EU

    Video Some US Gun Owners Support Gun Control

    Defying the stereotype, Dave Makings says he'd give up his assault rifle for a comprehensive program to reduce gun violence

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: William Li from: Canada
    August 13, 2014 6:59 PM
    Well, you should swear loyalty to China then you can enter and preach in China.
    I have nothing to against Christian personally.
    In Response

    by: william li from: canada
    August 14, 2014 10:27 AM
    @john li, you are chinese and you dont know how to be loyalty to China? shame on you! how about start from respecting Chinas sovereignty in south china sea, diaoyu islands, Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang? then restrain from bashing China? last but not least, respecting Chinese government authority over religious issues? yes, we must nominate the head of Christian in China!
    In Response

    by: John Li from: Canada
    August 13, 2014 10:54 PM
    Dear Mr. Li
    Would you please define and explain how to be loyalty to China ?

    Thanks in advance for your effords .
    Regards

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora