December 27th, 2007 12:28 EST
Bible Controversy Reflects Grim Reality of Christian Persecution in China
As China prepares to host the 2008 Olympic Games, a recent debate of whether athletes will have personal access to Bibles during their stay in Beijing sparked international controversy.
An announcement stated that the country intended to ban Bibles for security reasons, as well as all religious symbols in the Olympic Village -- a report that came on the heels of China's official pledge to encourage religion during the 2008 Games.
The news outraged human rights groups as well as U.S. politicians, including Senator Lindsey Graham, who contacted the Chinese ambassador for an explanation of the Bible ban, and House Representative Thaddeus McCotter, who introduced a resolution condemning the attack on Christianity.
But representatives from China have dismissed the report as an unfounded rumor, claiming that the government has not imposed any such rule and will guarantee religious freedom during the Olympic Games.
While the U.S. Olympic Committee has received confirmation that visiting athletes, journalists and tourists will in fact be allowed to bring Bibles into Beijing for personal use, the mere possibility of the ban's existence has been seen as yet another attempt by the Chinese government to suppress religious freedom within its borders, despite its repeated claims to the contrary.
Although the "underground" church in China has grown by the millions in recent years, the printing and distribution of Bibles in the communist nation remains severely restricted. Reports also indicate that more than 100 foreign Christians have recently been expelled from the country in a 90-day period -- one of the government's largest assaults on Christianity since 1954.
Christian Freedom International (CFI), a Michigan- based nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting persecuted Christians, is encouraging all believers to pray for the persecuted church in China.
As the international community keeps a watchful eye on a country still defending itself against a long history of religious and human rights abuses, even as it prepares to welcome the world to the 2008 Olympic Games, CFI is challenging Christians everywhere to remember those in China who routinely suffer harassment, torture and even martyrdom for their faith.
Under the direction of CFI president Jim Jacobson, a former White House policy analyst, CFI has "smuggled" thousands of Bibles into China since 1996. But with less than half of all Chinese Christians currently owning a copy of the Bible, and as the country's "underground" church continues to grow in record numbers, the demand for Bibles remains overwhelming.
To learn more about CFI's Bible deliveries in China, or to learn more about Christian persecution worldwide, visit www.christianfreedom.com.
Christian NewswireTo: National & International Desks
Contact: Amy Jo Jones, Christian Freedom International (CFI), 906-253-2336
Christian Freedom International (CFI)