BACKGROUND: It is difficult to state generalities about this massive nation, as what is true in one province may not be true in another. In 2012 the nation became more urban than rural, with most of the population clustered on the east coast. An estimated 40 million Chinese live in poverty. About 100 million Christians live in China, but only 30 million are affiliated with government-sanctioned state churches. The remaining 70 million worship in unapproved house churches. About 60 percent of these Christians live in rural areas.
MAJOR RELIGIONS: Most Chinese are non-religious, though about 20 percent are Buddhist and another 20 percent practice Chinese folk religion.
PERSECUTOR: The main persecutor is the government.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN IN CHINA: Christians are facing increasing pressure, with a 140 percent increase in arrests and detentions from 2015 to 2016. Ten years ago, house churches enjoyed a measure of acceptance by the government, but today things are much different. Authorities in one key province launched a campaign to remove crosses from churches. House church leaders are under intense pressure to join the government-approved church. If they refuse, the government often files false charges against them. In general, the farther Christians are from Beijing the more freedom they have. Local governments do not care if Christians evangelize in provinces with high Muslim populations, because they associate Muslims with terrorists. In some places, authorities pressure the children of Christian parents by refusing them an education; even the grandchildren of Christians are denied schooling. It is illegal to teach religion to anyone younger than 18. At least 10 Christians, and probably more, are imprisoned in China. Christians are often charged with participating in cults or with other spurious charges like “bad business practices” or “intent to undermine the state.”
ACCESS TO BIBLES: Those living in rural areas have little access to Bibles and usually can’t afford them even when they’re available. Bibles can be purchased at book stores operated by the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), the only state-sanctioned Protestant church, but rarely in bulk. VOM has distributed Bibles in 25 of China’s 31 provinces, but the average of 100,000 Bibles distributed each year makes only a tiny dent in the massive demand.
VOM WORK: VOM distributes Bibles in the least reached, most challenging areas of China. We distribute children’s Bibles, which are illegal, as well as study Bibles, which are both illegal and expensive. We also supply literature to groups that are reaching Muslims in China.