In 2018 President Xi of China was reappointed with no time limit. His new personal power and the enhanced role of the Chinese Communist Party has led to the persecution of virtually every major religious group within China. ‘Unofficial’ church buildings have been demolished and entire Christian congregations have been arrested, Tibetan Buddhists have been forced to remove images, and up to one million Muslims from the Uighur ethnic group have been detained in ‘re-education’ camps. Religion is seen as a great challenge to the atheism taught and imposed by the Communist Party.
In recent years, however, hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens have gone to work in Africa where they have encountered new cultures. Far from home, in strange places, some of these Chinese workers have found comfort in religion, especially amongst the many evangelical Christians in sub-Saharan Africa. Local African churches have reached out to Chinese workers, including incorporating Mandarin into services. A number of Chinese people have welcomed the sense of community and belonging that these Christian churches offer. A small but growing number of ethnically Chinese missionaries from Taiwan and other countries have been able to share the Christian gospel with Chinese nationals in Africa in a way that is not allowed in the People’s Republic. Many Chinese workers are returning home and bringing their newfound faith with them.
Christianity has been in China since the 7th century, a lot longer than communism, and today, despite persecution, the number of Christians is increasing. China is losing its fight against Christianity. It is estimated that there are 70 million Chinese Christians. Official figures show membership of the Chinese Communist Party at 90 million. If the present increase in the number of Christians in China continues there will soon be more Christians in China than in any other country in the world.
Atheism, whether espoused and propagated by political regimes or promoted by the secularism of our Western world, can never meet our deepest needs. In Africa Chinese workers have seen the difference a real and warm faith in Jesus Christ makes to people’s lives. Daily life for millions of people in Africa is desperately hard but in their churches people worship God with joy in their hearts. They love one another and help each other. Most African Christians are poor but their relationship with God through Jesus gives them “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” Now that’s something we all need and neither communism nor any other political ideology can ever give us.
The visit of the Pope to the UK has been in the news. His visit has been surrounded by controversy, but his presence and his speeches have brought spiritual and moral issues to the fore. Some prominent individuals have taken the opportunity to attack the privileges they say are enjoyed by some churches in what, they claim, is now a secular society. The Pope spoke a number of times about the growth of an aggressive secularism in Britain, which seeks to deny people of religious faith the freedom to believe and propagate their views.
Secular thinking has certainly become more prominent in Britain and often displays a high level of intolerance of other views. Secularists seek to promote a way of life that has nothing to do with God, religion or the spiritual nature of human beings. Belief in God is declared to be “unscientific” and irrational. Secularists believe in the hypothesis of evolution and believe that the universe evolved over millions of years by a series of chance events. They totally reject any claim that there is a divine mind and hand behind this wonderful world in which we live, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Secularism flourishes most in prosperous societies and is also propagated in communist countries by atheistic regimes.
The Bible teaches that our lives on earth have real meaning because of who God is. In him we live and move and have our being. He “knit us together” in our mother’s womb and made us the people we are. He blesses us every day and provides for all our needs. In his great love he sent his only Son into this world to save us by dying on the Cross to pay the penalty our sins deserve. He rose again to give us hope that though we die, yet shall we live. Knowing Jesus as our Saviour and Lord brings us new life.
So the challenge to each one of us is, who will you believe? Will you believe the secularists’ message, as they proclaim that there is no-one there and that life ends in nothingness? For them life is ultimately meaningless. Or will you believe in the living God, revealed in his amazing creation and, most clearly of all, in his Son, Jesus Christ? Jesus came that we might have life and have it to the full. As we walk though life in fellowship with him, everything is meaningful.