On November 12, the Bible Society of New South Wales sent out a press release announcing that smuggling Bibles into China places Chinese Christians at risk and is unnecessary. Daniel Willis, the CEO of the Bible Society NSW claimed that with the new Amity Press operational in Nanjing, "smuggling is a waste of resources."
Supporters of Amity Press have been claiming this for years, of course. Similar misstatements were often made concerning the Soviet Union during its heyday as well. And just as those claims were later proven to be overly optimistic, I have little doubt that history will also reveal the naiveté of today's apologists for China's communist regime.
Our good friends and partners, ChinaAid Association, released a gracious response to the Bible Society today.
MEDIA ADVISORY, Nov. 20 /Christian Newswire/ -- ChinaAid affirms the commitment of the Bible Society NSW to "break down the barriers of distance and isolation and make Bibles available to our Chinese brothers and sisters," through supporting the Amity Press's new drive to provide Bibles to believers in remote areas, Bible Society NSW CEO, Daniel Willis has under-stated the need to provide Bibles to believers in the People's Republic of China through other distribution venues.
1987, the Amity Press has printed and distributed more than 40 million copies of the Bible in simplified script within China. Amity Press is the only press that is legally permitted and supervised by the Chinese government to print Bibles. However, with estimates of the Protestant believers (Three Self Patriotic Movement church and house church) in China now totalling from 39 million to 130 million(1) and considering that most Bibles wear out after five years due to overuse and shared distribution, the Amity Press is only able to supply approximately half of the Bibles needed to meet the present and pressing need of China's Christian believers.
Willis also fails to make mention of two crucial issues that affect access to the Bible in China. The rate of printing and distribution in 2007 was 6.75 million complete Bibles and 690,000 copies of the New Testament.(2) At this rate, it will be another five years at least until the number of Bibles printed in China matches the approximate number of believers in China today. This also does not take into account the continued growth of the church in China and the need to distribute the Bible to the general populace -- a need which totally eclipses the amount of the Scriptures made available by the Amity Press.
Second, distribution of Amity Press Bibles is limited to government-approved Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) bookstores and distribution points. Thus, believers who want to purchase a Bible can only do so by finding a TSPM church. Christians who live in rural areas have little to no access to a TSPM church or TSPM bookstore. In addition, many of these Christians are living at a poverty-level that makes the expense of the purchase of a Bible impossible.
Mr. Willis says in his press release that, "smuggling Bibles into China places Chinese Christians at risk and ... smuggling is a waste of resources." However, many Chinese Christians feel the desperation for a Bible outweighs the risk. Zhou Heng was in prison from August 3, 2007 until February 19, 2008 for giving away Bibles. Christian bookstore owner Shi Weihan was arrested on March 19, 2008 for publishing and distributing Bibles and Christian literature. He is currently in prison. These two men testify to the great need for Bibles with their actions and their lives.
ChinaAid President Bob Fu notes, "Mr. Willis is to be commended for his commitment to providing Bibles in China. However, he has overstated the Amity Press' ability to supply enough Bibles to meet China's pressing need. His conclusion that Bibles do not need to be carried into China through other means furthers the misinformation propaganda goals of the TSPM and Religious Affairs Bureau."
So what do you think? Is Bible smuggling into China unnecessary? Let us know you opinion through our poll and by leaving a comment.