By Martin Roth, BosNewsLife Senior Special Correspondent
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)-- China's top anti-corruption body has warned Communist Party members – the elite of the nation – that they must refrain from religious activities amid concerns over the rapid spread of Christianity here.
The warning, seen by critics as an ominous sign for religious freedom in China, was published in the official newsletter of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, BosNewsLife established.
It cited conditions in Wenzhou city in Zhejiang province, sometimes known as the new “Jerusalem of China”, because of its growing number of believers in Jesus Christ. Since late-2013, officials have been ordering the removal of crosses from churches saying they “violate” building codes.
Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper said some cadres had abandoned Communism’s core doctrine of ‘dialectic materialism’ and turned to religion instead. Getting rid of such officials “whose thoughts are not on the party,” and bolstering party ideology had become important issues, the paper commented.
“‘A lapse in ideology is the most serious disease,” the article said. “Some party members do not believe in Marxism-Leninism; their minds are not on their work [and] they busy themselves with religious activities. Some cadres even take the lead in becoming believers.”
MILLIONS OF ATHEISTS?
The paper noted that Party members are forbidden from joining in religious activity and are to be atheists.
China’s Communist Party has some 87 million members.
Though official figures are not available, it is believed that the number of Chinese Christians is at least 80 million, with some officials suggesting the number may be as high as 130 million with Christianity growing rapidly. One sociologist has predicted that Chinese Christians will number 245 million by the year 2030, making China the largest Christian nation in the world.
In a lengthy report on Sunday’s article, the U-S.-funded Radio Free Asia network quoted several church leaders, one of whom declared that “genuine believers in Communism are few and far between nowadays.”
A Beijing pastor added that “this loss of faith [in Communism] reaches right to the highest echelons of Party leadership,” and that “for many years now, a lot of Chinese officials and Communist Party members and their families have been turning to Jesus."