Keeping the Faith Can Be a Test of It

By Malone, Tara | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), April 25, 2006 | Go to article overview

Keeping the Faith Can Be a Test of It


Malone, Tara, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Tara Malone Daily Herald Staff Writer

SHANGHAI, China - Politics alone did not brand Xiao Meilin's family an enemy of Communist China.

Their Christian faith proved just as potent a scarlet letter.

Christianity - a religion ferried to China along the storied Silk Road linking East to West - and its native devotees received sharp scrutiny.

The stigma of the Western faith weighed heavily on Xiao Meilin, her family and countless others.

Christianity did not drive her father from China. Nor did it cause her mother to be imprisoned or her family to be divided for more than 30 years. But it was a factor.

"I may not be a good Christian," the 64-year-old Elmhurst woman says, "but God is always in my heart."

Nearly six decades after the Communist Revolution, Christianity remains taboo in many parts of China.

Official government policy touts religious tolerance, but in some corners, organized worship remains an affront to communist ideals.

An estimated 5 million Catholics live in China, less than 1 percent of the country's 1.3 billion residents, U.S. State Department reports show. The reports also suggest the actual number likely is much higher. The Protestant faith claims 15 million believers in China, official records show. Buddhism is most widely practiced with 100 million devotees. Though banned in China, the Falun Gong religious movement claims more than 70 million members, according to Amnesty International.

State-approved churches preach a message of self-governance, self-support and self-propagation. Universal themes like love, humility and respect are espoused, while larger questions of faith typically go unanswered.

Independent Christian churches, called "house churches," are freer to tackle thornier faith issues, but membership can be risky. …

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