2008 China’s Year!
A report compiled from several sources concerning the Beijing Olympics and Christian testimony
There is no doubt that evangelicals saw the Beijing Olympics of 2008 as a great opportunity to enter and evangelize with some freedom what is one of the world’s supposed most anti-Christian nation. On Saturday, May 19th 2007 the Associated Press filed the following report: ‘Christian mission groups from around the world plan to quietly defy the Chinese ban on foreign missionaries and send thousands of volunteer evangelists to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Many mission workers are travelling through China now as tourists to learn their way around and prepare the region for the gospel. Next summer, just before the Games begin, several Christian groups plan to rally in an Asian country that they will not identify, and then head out in small teams to Olympic sites and beyond’.
Christians regularly evangelize at major sporting events, but the Beijing Olympics offer an opening like no other in a Communist country. Citing safety concerns, religious organizers are revealing few specifics of their plans. But many are expected to put on cultural and sports events – which China allows – with the goal of talking about faith with the people they meet. Advocates for Chinese Christians say the danger for these foreign volunteers is minimal. Christians who live in China are often able to evangelize privately while working as English teachers or in the business world. At worst, Olympic ‘missionaries’ could be expelled from the country but the peril for Chinese Christians who work with the foreign groups or evangelize on their own is considerable. Many Chinese Christians have risked imprisonment and worse by joining the underground ‘house church’ network.
Asked for comment, the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee said it planned to follow Olympic tradition and build a religious service centre in the Olympic village. It also will advise athletes in other Olympic cities about the available worship services. It said that there are a handful of people who are trying to politicize the Olympic Games but their objectives will never be attained’.
2008 has been a year of enormous significance
For all in China and Southeast Asia, 2008 has been a year of enormous significance. The Beijing Olympics, the Sichuan earthquake and Burma's Cyclone Nargis has, for every worker for God, meant much heart exercise, intensive ministry and extensive travel.
2008 has been especially significant for China for it marks the 30th year of Deng Xiao Ping's leadership decision to scrap the ruinous class revolution system and replace it with economic development. The 2008 Olympics were therefore the golden opportunity to be China's ‘Coming-out’ time for all to see her new and great progress. The whole point of China winning the right to host the 2008 0lympics was in showing the entire world how dramatically ‘progressive and changed’ China has become since the awesome days of China's ‘blue and grey’ police state. Six years ago upon winning the host city slot, the ruling party promised the games would be the occasion to openly present China's change and progress, and that unprecedented press freedoms, and greatly improved human rights, would be in operation before, during, and after the games. ‘One world - one dream’ was the chosen Beijing Olympic theme, but what is the one world, one dream of Beijing in which all are invited to share?
The 100,000 ‘Stadium Volunteers’, the 400,000 ‘City Volunteers’ and the one million ‘Social Volunteers’ all provided a great national display of intensive preparation for visitors to see. The China Daily newspaper stated that, ‘This is the Chinese people's longing for recognition and respect from the world.’ It quoted Xia Fengzhi, a 67-year-old retired worker and volunteer, ‘I want foreigners to see what China has achieved, for now we are strong and rich enough to hold such a major international event’. Some used the occasion to be vocal, and along with U.S. President, George W. Bush, they have kept reminding China not to fear freedom for their citizens, and that freedom of speech will strengthen and not weaken China. These voices also reminded the world that China is still a Communist state with poor records in respect of personal dignity and human rights. In fact it is a nation without the rule of law.
Despite Mr. Bush’s gracious yet quite outspoken comments regarding freedom of religion pointing out that imprisoned lawyers and human rights activists, along with those imprisoned for their faith and conscience, were still undergoing persecution, prosecution and incarceration. He reckoned that for their outstanding performances, it is they who should receive medals! Amongst these would be many of God's workmen and one example, an elderly believer who lives in Beijing, was unceremoniously removed from the capital along with his ailing wife. He was even on this occasion offered 5,000 yuan (about £400) to keep out of the city for three months. He is a brother whose practice it is to give out at least one hundred tracts a day! No wonder he was considered a dire threat!
What is the real truth behind the public image?
The truth about China in 2008 is that 200 million Chinese have been fortunate enough to benefit from an expanding global market that has enabled them to now enjoy a middleclass standard of living. However, the remaining, more than one billion, are still among the poorest and mostexploited people in the world, lacking even minimal public services. There are more than 200 million Chinese migrant workers that move from worksite to worksite. These are especially exploited and discriminated against, as they collect a mere pittance for doing China's 3 Ds (the dirty, the difficult and the dangerous work) that the privileged city dwellers would never do! This is the real truth: to be alive (read ‘exist’) in the bitter ocean of China’s mass of humanity, requires a survival resilience that is unique and virtually unknown to other members of the human race.
These Olympics are the costliest in the history of the Games. China’s known spending for the 2008 Olympics has been in excess of $40 billion US dollars and has therefore shattered all records for hosting the Olympics. The cost tab runs like this: one $3 billion for a new airport with three terminals (large enough to house all five of London's Heathrow terminals with room to spare!); and one $500 million Bird's Nest National Stadium the cost of which alone dwarfs Athen's total Olympic budget of $15 million! China's current economic purse can certainly afford all of this, because the $40 billion is but a small fraction of its gross domestic product that is expected to exceed $4 trillion in 2008!
An estimated 36,000 overseas accredited journalists and reporters, three times the number of athletes, converged on the games and a further 100,000 Security Force members were mobilized to give overall protection to nationals and visitors! The opening ceremony was, as promised, a most marvelous presentation. This is because China, along with most socialist counties, continues to be a society given to mass spectacles of officially approved national pageantry, and China certainly has a long and magnificent history in this to present to the world. The cost has been huge but it has been considered well worth it!
And now with the competitions all completed and the medals all awarded, the world has learned much about China, and China has learned much more about how the world views China! The '08 Olympics will surely leave a lasting legacy upon this nation and we hope will result in extended and lasting freedoms that will include an opened door to preach Christ.
The amazing and miraculous reality
The amazing and miraculous reality is that blocked websites, along with a severely biased propaganda machine, hindered, but did not stop the 36,000 journalists doing their job and covering the Beijing Olympics fully. Nor did the difficult and increased restrictions block out or stop Christian witness during the games. It has been immensely encouraging to see firsthand how millions of pieces of prepared gospel material have done their witness and work! Many have given generously to enable the preparation of literature that has been used for this occasion over a two-year period prior to the games. In each of the host cities more than enough New Testaments and gospel literature was in place for distribution before, during and after the games. Willing workers devised many ingenious ways to distribute God's word. Other literature provisions were made, and the surprised interest with which Safety, Certainty and Enjoyment wallet, gospel calendars, (one million of them), Pure Gold tracts and New Testaments were received, was a joy to behold! Please ‘water’ the good seed with prayer for a bountiful harvest and for ‘the increase’ that is of God.
The fear of what a rising and prosperous China could mean to the world
On 4th July 2008, the China National Daily, noted that there was an increased volume of voiced fear as to what a rising and prosperous China could mean to the world. It indignantly assured the world that a prosperous China would not have an adverse outcome upon the world’s economy. The article also promised China’s progress and prosperity would not be at the expense of, nor result in, impoverishment of the world.
The issue is therefore huge! A total of 1.3 billion Chinese continue to feed themselves every day and this is not because of any particular political administration, past or present, but it is because the Chinese people are renowned for their enduring ability to produce their own sustenance, and suffer, survive and overcome disaster after disaster. Now, after just 20 or 30 years, a few hundred million of its diligent and enterprising citizens have become the newly empowered middle class section of China’s society. Everything in China, whether good or bad, is always huge! And now ‘the word’ is that China's developing economy is so huge that it will soon surpass that of the United States! There will certainly remain a section of people in the world who will always carry deep reservations and fears toward the present one-party communist administration.
Asia’s giant economies are huge but on the other hand they present a great opportunity to witness to the grace and saving power that is in the gospel of God. Others are afraid as they view China not as a strategic partner but as an aggressive and competitive enemy. Thank God, however, that there are millions around the world who see China and the Chinese people, not as a fearsome issue but as a great and wonderful section of humanity for whom Christ also died at Calvary. But the Christian resolutely says, ‘Fear? Never!’ We fear only that we will fail our victorious Lord Jesus Christ who is triumphant over death and hell; and the One who has called us to go against all odds with God's glad tidings while it is still called ‘Today’. The ‘Night’ is surely coming when the opportunity to be reconciled to God, will be over and gone! Please pray for China!