China (MNN) — In preparation for the Olympics, the Chinese government is cracking down on the underground church, arresting and interrogating house church leaders in the Beijing area. It has also been oppressing Christian bookstore owners and preventing the distribution of Bibles and Christian literature.
"There may be as many as 25-30 million Christians in China who still do not have a Bible," says Carl Moeller of Open Doors. "Hundreds of thousands of Chinese who would want a copy of the Scriptures for their very own won't be able to receive them this year unless something dramatically changes between now and the Olympics."
Although China now allows Amity Press to print Bibles legally, a single publisher cannot possibly satisfy the massive demand of the Chinese church for Bibles, Moeller said.
Moeller explains that the underground church is unwilling to register with the government because it values its freedom, just like Americans do.
"The more government regulation, the more potential for government control," he says.
He expects that China will relax its restrictions with foreigners during the Olympics, presenting itself as an "open society." Unfortunately, however, he discourages visitors from making contact with the underground church because such contact could provoke persecution when the Olympics are over.
"We can leave, and we'll be free to do what we need to do in terms of evangelism there. But our brothers and sisters, who will be there after the cameras go away, may suffer increased persecution," Moeller explains.
Nevertheless, he expects the Chinese church to evangelize boldly during the Olympics, and he is excited for the opportunity that non-Chinese believers have "to stand with our brothers and sisters in China, to reach China for Christ during the Olympic year."
Open Doors will continue monitoring the Chinese government's treatment of minorities throughout the Olympics and after they are over, he said. "We recognize that China has done some good things, but we know that China needs to step up and be a real participant in protecting the rights of its religious minorities."