With a population of over 1.386 billion, the People’s Republic of China becomes the most populated country on earth, currently.
Of these people, up to 115 million people practice Christianity. Of this number, only 30 million practice it openly in official churches in China where pastors are paid by the state.
Most people in China are taught to pay allegiance to Mao Zedong, the founder of the Communist Party who died in 1976.
It is alleged that there were over 900 temples in Beijing, but now the number has gone down to 20, even as the government cracks whip on Christianity.
Even as this happens, the country has several of its companies doing development projects in Africa, where most inhabitants are Christians.
One of these countries is Kenya, where over 40,000 Chinese nationals have found their work stations.
Away from these work stations is their religious life, which is rarely seen in public. But in their places of residence, Christian Chinese nationals find solace in the Kenyan environment where religion is ‘free’, 5,300 miles from home.
One of the Churches where the Chinese worship is the Bread of Life, headquartered in Taiwan but with 500 ministries worldwide.
According to the Church’s pastor Jonathon Chow who visits Kenyan church regularly, “it’s dangerous to be a Christian in China right now,” but Kenya offers the freedom needed.
In China, CNN reports that the government has banned online sales of Bibles, dynamites churches and arrests Christians for “inciting subversion of state power.”
One of the beneficiaries of this freedom in Kenya is Liang Yongyu who married a Kenyan wife, Karen Ngunjiri, in a wedding that caused a stir online. Kenyans accused Chinese nationals of taking over everything, including ‘their’ women.
One thing Liang had to do before marrying Ms Ngunjiri was to convert to Christianity, which he now enjoys.
Another one is Annie Hu, 30, who relocated to Kenya five years ago and works as East Africa region manager for a Chinese financial technology firm.
“Hu’s family is Buddhist but in Nairobi she began attending Christian churches, including Bread of Life and the Cantonese congregation joined by Liang, as well as a Maasai church,” reports CNN.
“Kenyans believe in God more than my Western friends. Once we engage with the local community it’s inevitable we are invited to join the church. These people are very friendly and reliable and they try to build a supportive community for the Chinese,” she says.
Despite this freedom, very few come out to profess their faith. They even have hidden churches (underground churches) which they attend. In these churches, no photography is allowed and you cannot identify the people who attend the services.
Reason? The congregants will eventually go back to China and this may cause trouble for them with the government.
One of the churches is led by May Li (not real name), wife of a Malaysian-Chinese pastor, operated in an undisclosed location in Nairobi.
The situation is so dire that even the Chinese embassy in Kenya has allegedly warned the churches to desist from the practice.
However, the government denies such allegations.
“The Chinese government respects its people’s religious freedom and protects normal religious activities and legitimate rights of religious organizations, and manages religious issues pertaining to national and public interests in accordance with law. At the same time, we require all religions to obey national laws and carry out activities within the law,” says a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Mofa).
The regulation is said to go unnoticed, since the media in China cannot highlight it, as Christianity is ‘virtually invisible’ in the country.
It is reported that the government doesn’t want to encourage anyone to think about religion.