The 135-year-old Holy Trinity Church--or "Red Church," as the brick edifice is commonly known--will become home to two Christian communities in downtown Shanghai, officials have said.
The National Committee of Three-Self (Self-administration, Self-supporting, Self-propagation) Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China and the China Christian Council will move into the church by the end of this year.
Big wooden signs with the names of the organizations were put in place in the front of the historical building on Sunday. The church has long been used for secular purposes and the hanging of the nameplates indicates the building's return to the Christian community.
Religious activities are expected to resume by this Sunday, although the organizations' complete move will probably take some time.
Ding Guangxun, honorary chairman of the committee, said the relocation of the two organizations will substantially improve the working conditions for their 60 staff members.
Most of the employees are Christians, said Xie Sheng, from the China Christian Council.
Most have expressed a fondness for the building, which features a 7,000-square-meter area for offices and worship on the ground floor.
This is the latest act showing the government's support for freedom of religion, according to Ding, who is also honorary president of the China Christian Council.
According to the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Ethnic and Religious Affairs, there are now more than 10 million Christians in the country. The two organizations, as non-governmental groups, administrate worship of all Chinese Christians.
The number of Christians in Shanghai is not available, but residents of the port city--especially young people--are showing strong interest in rituals and festivals related to Christianity, such as Christmas.
Officials of the Municipal Commission of Ethnic and Religious Affairs said they believe that citizens in China enjoy freedom of religion in accordance with the Constitution. Normal religious activities are protected.
According to incomplete statistics, there are more than 100,000 venues for religious activities nationwide, with a clergy numbering about 300,000. In addition, there are more than 3,000 national and local religious organizations, and 74 religious colleges and schools.
Each religion publishes its own scriptures, books and magazines.
To date, Chinese religious organizations have established relations with counterpart organizations and personnel in more than 70 countries.
Earlier this year, construction of two Christian churches was started in Beijing to meet the needs of both Chinese and foreigners who reside there.
(China Daily June 9, 2004)