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J. Grant Swank

China: Bible = Increasingly Popular
By J. Grant Swank Jr.
Oct 2, 2011 - 12:07:28 AM

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"Demand (for more Bibles in China) has grown to the point that the foundation plans to open a new, 515,000-square-foot (48,000 sq. m.) printing plant next year, which will allow Amity Printing company to turn out more than a million books a month. It's thought to be one of the largest Bible production facilities in the world" per TIME's Austin Ramzy (2007).

The Bible is becoming increasingly popular in China. No one knows the exact number of Christians there, estimates varying so, but it is assumed that the number is growing. Still many believers do not have access to a Bible.

Amity Printing prints only one book - the Bible. "It is the largest printer of Christian literature in the officially atheist country where freedom of religion remains weak."

However, observers note that atheist China officialdom is not so much disturbed by what a person believes as organizations that do not register with the government. Officialdom is frustrated by groups that remain undercover. The government wants to know who is doing what and where. Authorities fear any surprise faction growing apart from their knowledge.

Therefore, Amity works closely with the government by being open about it. In this mode, Amity has succeeded with publications paralleling the increased popularity of the Bible.

Even with the government permitting Bible publication, however, there are some geographies where possession of a Bible can lead to arrest. Because China is so vast, there are varying understandings throughout the country as to what is acceptable and what is not.

"Several Chinese have recently been arrested for illegally bringing Bibles into the country. On Nov. 28, 2007 police raided the house of Beijing bookstore owner Shi Weihan, confiscating Bibles and other religious publications and placing him under detention. And Zhou Heng, a businessman and leader of an underground church in China's western Xinjiang region, was arrested in August for receiving three tons of Bibles from South Korea."

Over the last 20 years, Amity has printed over 50 million Bibles. Amity is a "joint venture between the Amity Foundation, a Chinese Christian charity, and the United Bible Societies, a Reading, England-based group."

The more the Chinese want the Bible, the more spiritual hunger is evident. "'It reflects the rapid growth of the number of Christians in China,' says Bob Fu, who runs the U.S.-based China Aid Association, an advocacy group for mainland Christians.

"Under Chinese law, the Bibles Amity prints can only be distributed through officially sanctioned churches. But in recent years it has become easier for house churches to procure Bibles, often buying them through registered churches.

"Some Bibles are even appearing in bookstores, despite lacking the registration numbers required of any printed work. Jean-Paul Wiest, an expert on Chinese Catholicism who teaches at the Beijing Center, says his students have no problems getting religious materials. 'Bibles are very widely available,' he says."

What worldwide believers know is that when the Word of God gets into the hands of inquiring minds, the Holy Spirit is ready to open the heart to Christ's saving grace. Only heaven knows that number. In the meantime, Amity continues its mission to publish Scriptures, leaving the actual statistics to heaven's count.

J. Grant Swank, Jr.

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