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Christian Meeting Highlights Religious Freedom
A senior Chinese official said yesterday that China will continue to uphold its policy of religious freedom and manage religious affairs according to the law.

State Councillor Ismail Amat made the remarks when addressing participants at a national Christian conference that ended yesterday in Beijing.

Participants at the meeting, which touched upon such topics as strengthening the moral standards of Chinese Christians, elected Cao Shengjie as president of the China Christian Council and Ji Jianhong as president of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee of the Protestant Churches of China.

Ismail Amat stressed the importance of independence in the development of Chinese Christianity, in keeping with Chinese Christians' traditions of self-administration, self-support and self-propagation.

Official statistics show that China has more than 10 million Christians, with the numbers growing most rapidly in recent years. At the end of 2001, the council and committee had published 28 million copies of the Bible.

The five-day meeting was convened at a time when calls from the nation's Christians to clamp down on cults are on the rise.

"The cults have made use of the Bible, quoting it out of context and making up heresies," Cao said. "They control followers, barring them from rational reasoning. They have bad morals and have even violated the law."

Meeting participants approved a resolution yesterday urging Christians in China to oppose cults, particularly those that operate under the cloak of Christianity.

They voiced support for the Chinese government's efforts to weed out cults and pledged to help Christians who have been taken in by cults.

Cults are more influential in rural areas and small townships, where the number of Christians is increasing rapidly but qualified clergy are in short supply.

"Reality has shown us that the future of Chinese Christianity will be harmed if we do not attach importance to the churches in rural areas and help followers there improve," Cao said.

Ye Xiaowen, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, also called for more efforts to groom more church personnel to fill in the gap.

Training and advanced studies of various kinds are encouraged in addition to Christian seminaries, Ye said.

(China Daily May 27, 2002)

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