China (MNN) ― A booming Bible industry is turning an atheistic nation into the world's largest supplier of Bibles.
China is on track to become the world's largest producer of Bibles, but according to Open Doors' Carl Moeller, "Much is made of the fact that the Chinese government, through its Amity Press, has recently printed its 50 millionth Bible. That is a wonderful statistic, except when you realize that there may be up to 100-million believers in China, and you also realize that 10-percent of the Amity Press Bible printing goes for export."
Amity is China's only state-sanctioned Bible printer and has about 500 employees. It has produced 50 million copies in 75 languages, sent to over 60 countries.
On top of that, the government is set to release a special Olympic edition of the Bible, New Testament and booklets with the four Gospels during the Games next month.
While it may seem, on the surface, that China has thrown doors open wide, the picture isn't quite what it seems. The government is still maintaining very tight control on what's going on in the Christian community.
Believers are benefiting most from a pragmatic business approach to the commerce of the Bible. Anyone can buy a Bible now through the state-run church, but smuggling Bibles in or illegally printing and distributing them can bring the full weight of the government's disapproval down on the offender.
Open Doors has been tracking the case against Shi Weihan who was re-arrested in March for publishing Bibles and Christian literature. Under his Holy Spirit Trading Company, Shi ran a Christian bookstore, a printing press and travel agency.
China Aid Association, International Christian Concern and Release International are advocates on his behalf. Moeller says, "We hope that the Chinese authorities will recognize that Christians like Shi are an asset to their country and not a threat. Hopefully the authorities will respond to the many petitions of Christians in the United States and around the world who would like to see Shi released before the start of the Olympics."
Prayer also makes a big difference in getting the Gospel out. Moeller notes that there's still a lot of work to do. "If at best we're talking about maybe 45-million Bibles for 100-million believers, we're talking about 55-plus million believers in China who still have yet to have their first Bible. That's if every Bible that Amity Press has ever printed is still in circulation."