The country's top religious affairs official has pledged to continue support for the printing and publication of the Bible, even as the religious text here hit a milestone of 50 million copies published.
"The country respects and protects religious freedom," said Ye Xiaowen, head of the State Administration for Religious Affairs.
"And China has become one of the countries publishing the largest number of Bibles in the world."
Ye made the remarks at a ceremony to mark the publication of the country's 50 millionth complete Bible by the Amity Printing Company over the weekend in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province.
About 43 million copies of the Bible have been made for believers on the Chinese mainland, with copies in Braille and eight minority languages.
The remaining 7 million were exported to more 60 countries and regions, mainly through a joint venture with the United Bible Societies (UBS) established in 1988.
The accomplishment of 50 million Bibles is a major milestone in Bible publication in China, which satisfies the nationwide demand including those of the remote rural areas, UBS general secretary Rev Miller Milloy said at the ceremony.
About 3 million copies of Bible have been rolling off the press annually in recent years, which forms the largest annual production by any Christian group, said the organization.
Amity Foundation, the only one authorized in China to print the Bible, said there are 74 sales offices set up throughout the country for distributing the text.
"The printing company not only produces Bibles for Christians, it also donates its earnings to charity," said Bishop Kuang-hsun Ting, chair of the board of the Amity Foundation.
Official statistics show that there were 16 million Christians in China by 1997 and the number is said to be growing, said Cao Shengjie, president of China Christian Council. The country also has 18 theological schools, with about 1,800 students.
Ye gave the assurance at the ceremony that Chinese religious groups will provide help and service, including giving copies of the Bible to overseas athletes and tourists, during the Beijing Olympics 2008.
"The Amity Printing Company is well prepared to provide assistance to print copies of the Bible for the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008," said Zhang Liwei, deputy secretary-general of the Amity Foundation.
Li Zhanjun, director of the Beijing Olympics media center, also said earlier that a religious service center will be set up in the Olympic Village to offer services to Christians, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and followers of other religions next summer.
(China Daily, December 10, 2007)