China Secretly Meets With Long-Banned Churches

Only state-backed religious groups legal; 100M worship in secret
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Jan 26, 2009 12:49 PM CST
Christian faithful attend Christmas day service at the Chong Wen Men church in Beijing, China, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2007.   (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
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(Newser) – Inching toward reconciliation after decades of opposition, China’s government invited leaders of the country’s banned Protestant churches to secret talks, the Times of London reports. The government is hoping to smooth relations as it celebrates its 60th year in power and aims for stability amid economic turmoil. Beijing allows Christians who worship in state-backed organizations, but more than 100 million attend underground “house churches” instead.

“The government is anxious to work out the way to go forward. They have understood that the Protestant Church is not an opposition force, but a force for stability and harmony,” said a pastor. In the meetings, he said, the government hoped to discuss whether the house churches were a potential threat, why they wouldn’t accept the official Protestant church, and what they sought for the future.