China (MNN) — The Communist Party of China amended
its Constitution this week to include the mention of "religion."
It was adopted on Sunday at the closing session of
the 17th CPC National Congress. The
resolution said, in part: "To incorporate into its Constitution the
principles and policies the Party has formulated for guiding efforts to
strengthen the work related to ethnic and religious affairs, among others, is
conducive to their full implementation and getting better results in the Party's
work in this area."
Although religion was previously mentioned in the
Constitution, China Partner Ministries' Erik
Burklin says, "I think it's maybe
their attempt to show the rest of the world that China is open towards those
who have religious backgrounds or would like to practice their religious faith."
As the host country of the 2008 Summer Olympic
Games, China has pledged to offer religious services for foreigners arriving
for the Games. The motivation may lie in
repairing an image that's been badly tarnished by reports of repression,
arrests and persecution of numerous house churches. Burklin
says, "I think they want to show to the rest of the world that 'we are a
friendly nation, we are a country that welcomes all kinds of people from around
There have been reports that China restricted the printing and sale of
Bibles. The State Administration of
Religious Affairs said there have been state subsidies and other preferential
policies that show differently. Burklin
agrees. He says China, with 16 million
Protestant Christians, has printed 42 million Bibles.
Other Christian groups fear that the new freedoms
provided for in the amendment will revert once the Olympics are over. However, Burklin says that's unlikely because Christians are considered a positive
influence in China. "I think the
government over the last twenty years has realized that and therefore is
saying, 'If the Christians can be good citizens, then why shouldn't we allow them
to be able to live out their Christian faith more liberally?' From a China Partner perspective, it will
only allow us to do more, so we're very excited about this shift."
CP exists to help build up and equip the Church in
China. This is accomplished by working in four main areas of ministry: Pastoral training, Christian literature distribution
programs, training conferences, and Bible
school and church construction. Continue to pray for the teams who are working with
Christians in China that the freedoms in place will allow the church to