Landmark moment as 125 millionth Bible printed in China

REUTERS/ Nir EliasA worker piles up newly printed Chinese language Bible books at the end of the production line of Amity Printing factory in Nanjing.

The largest Bible printing factory in the world has printed its 125th million copy, the Financial Times reports.

Based in Nanjing, China, the factory is run by the government-sanctioned Amity Foundation in conjunction with the Bible Society. It has produced over 65 million Bibles in ten different Chinese languages since 1987, in addition to more than 59 million in 90 other languages for exportation.

Officially an atheist state, the right to freedom of religious belief is guaranteed under Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution but protections are limited to those who worship within state-sanctioned bodies. Chinese Christians often suffer at the hands of government authorities, and the Asian superpower is ranked the 37th worst country in the world for Christian persecution by the Open Doors World Watch List.

Despite this, reports suggest that between 3,000 and 10,000 people are turning to Christianity every day, and while there were just one million believerswhen the Communist party came to power in 1949, there are now thought to be as many as 100 million.

"As China opened up to the world [starting in the early 1980s] most people were focused on improving their basic living level, getting clothing and enough to eat, as everyone was poor," said Qiu Zhonghui, chairman of the Amity Bible Printing Company.

"Once people reach a certain living standard they start looking for spiritual fulfilment and that's why we see so much demand for Christianity in China – the meaning of life becomes important once you have enough money to survive."

Qui added that many in the West believe the Chinese government to have banned Bibles, but the China Christian Council actually distributes the book around the country.

"Some churches in the west still raise funds to smuggle Bibles into the country. They don't realise those bibles are probably made here in our factory in China," he said.

However, the Community Party is thought to be stepping up its defences against Christianity. In the past few months it has targeted over 300 churches, with many having their crosses removed and some being forcefully demolished.

Bob Fu, an ex-underground church pastor and founder of China Aid, told Christian Today: "We are seeing the worst persecution in China since the Cultural Revolution".

"There has been forced demolition, the removal of crosses, over 300 churches have been attacked and government sanctioned church pastors sentenced to 12 years in prison. Multiple believers have been attacked and hospitalised, and thousands of police were mobilised to attack a church. That has not been seen since the time of the Cultural Revolution. It's overwhelming," he said.

However, Fu is said he is "very optimistic" about the long-term future of Chinese Christians, and says the latest increased persecution is likely to lead to "a new wave of Church growth" in China.

"The attacks have been barbaric...but on the other hand, the communist party has not learnt its lessons. When it took power in 1949, there were less than one million Christians. After 60 years of non-stop persecution, look at it now!"

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