A China-based Christian group announced that it had printed 50 million Bibles, mainly for Chinese believers.
Ye Xiaowen, head of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, said at a ceremony on Saturday that the Chinese government respects and protects religious freedom and supports, as always, printing and publishing Bibles in China.
The Amity Printing Company, which is affiliated to the Amity Foundation, printed the 50 millionth Bible in mid September, in addition to 9 million New Testaments.
About 43 million copies of the complete Bible were produced for believers on the Chinese mainland, with copies in Braille and eight minority languages. The remaining 7 million were exported to over 60 countries and regions around the world.
In recent years, about 3 million copies of Bible rolled off the press every year, the company said.
The Amity Foundation, the only one authorized in China for printing Bibles, said it has 74 sales offices throughout the country, which channel Bibles to nationwide Christians.
Bishop Kuang-hsun Ting, chair of the board of the Amity Foundation, said that the printing company would not only produce Bibles for his fellow Christians, but also donate its earnings for charity. Official statistics on Christianity in China reveals there are 16 million believers, a number which is continuously expanding. The country also has 18 theological schools, with about 1,800 students.
During the Beijing Olympics 2008, Ye said, local religious groups will provide help and service to overseas tourists, including Bible copies.
Last month Beijing Olympics organizers were forced to angrily deny that Bibles and other religious items for personal use would not be welcome at next year's Olympics.
A notice on the official Beijing Olympics Web site explaining entry procedures into the country said ``each traveller is recommended to take no more than one Bible into China.''
Religious services -- Christian, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist -- will be available to athletes in the Olympic Village next summer, Zhanjun, director of the Beijing Olympics media center said.
(Xinhua News Agency December 9, 2007)