There are five things you need to know about faith in China, says Evan Osnos, and one is that Christianity is China’s largest non-governmental organisation.
3) Christianity: China’s largest N.G.O.
“The Chinese constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but the right is narrowed by regulations against proselytizing and other activities. Officially, China recognizes five religions — Taoism, Buddhism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism — and believers can worship in state-controlled settings. More than twenty million Catholics and Protestants attend churches run by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and its counterpart the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. But more than twice that number worship in unregistered “house churches,” which range in size from small farmhouse study groups to large semipublic congregations in the cities. The house churches are not legally protected, so authorities can tolerate them one day and shut them down the next, if political orders came down to tighten up. The Party is under increasing pressure to change the way it regards the desire for faith; China today has sixty to eighty million Christians, a community as large as the Communist Party. Li Fan, a secular liberal writer, told me, “Christianity has probably become China’s largest nongovernmental organization.””