Chinese Officials Confiscate Bibles from American Christians

The Associated Press is reporting that Chinese customs officials have taken 300 Bibles from four Americans who had intended to distribute them. Pat Klein, head of Vision Beyond Borders, said the Bibles were taken from the group's checked luggage after they landed in the city Kunming in the southern province of Yunnan.

"We're not selling them; we give them free to the people," Klein told the news service. "We didn't come to cause trouble, we just came to bring Bibles to help out the Chinese Christians."

According to Klein, customs officers said they each take one Bible, which was printed in Chinese, for personal use. They confiscated the rest.

Churches, mosques and other religious institutions are heavily regulated by the Chinese government. China has been routinely criticized for harassing and arresting those who try to organize religious services outside the state-run system.

Chinese officials say they have made special concessions during the Olympics by distributing bilingual copies of the Bible, Koran and other religious scriptures in the Olympic Village. But human rights groups have criticized China for banning foreign chaplains from being based there.

The Olympic charter prohibits demonstrations of "political, religious or racial propaganda" at venues but that has not prevented a number of athletes from the U.S. and other countries have been saying prayers or making other spiritual gestures before or after their events in Beijing.

For more information about U.S. Olympic athletes and religion, please see this article by my Post colleague Alan Goldenbach.

--Ariana Eunjung Cha

August 17, 2008; 10:53 AM ET  | Category:  Postmark Beijing
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I have a lot of questions for you based on this information. Why did the Bibles get taken in Kunming? It seems unlikely that Kunming was their port of entry, and I've never had my luggage inspected after a domestic flight in China. Were they followed from another part of China? Did they do something to attract attention? Why does the Chinese government still act like Bibles are dangerous? Why do foreign Christians still spend so much effort on Bible-smuggling?

Posted by: William | August 17, 2008 1:01 PM

Ah, I just found the answer to the easiest of my questions: they flew to Kunming from Thailand, so it was a customs inspection that turned up the Bibles.

Posted by: William | August 17, 2008 1:05 PM

Although Bibles are printed legally and illegally in China, the number of Chinese coming to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour and asking for Bibles far surpasses the available supply. Yes, in the big cities where foreigners abound, it is possible to find Bibles. However, in the countryside this is not the case. Most Christians do not have access to Bibles or the finances to purchase one should it be made available. I have been involved with bringing Bibles to China and distributing them to the believers for more than 10 years now. What I can say for certain, is that the churches continue to ask us to bring more and it is not unusual to see tears in the eyes of a believer receiving their first Bible.

China is changing, albeit slowly, and they have learned to put on a great "face" for the world. Unfortunately, just like it is for each of us, unless the heart changes everything else is just "lipstick and rouge".

I have mixed feelings about what the people of VBB did. Situations like this embarrass and frustrate Chinese authorities and so, for a time it will cause difficulties for those involved in similar work and it will bring more persecution to believers in that area of China. (obviously they would have established contacts in Kunming) However, the need to raise international awareness to the truth about China's religious freedom is greatly needed.

I trust these men acted according to their faith and pray that the fallout will be minimal and the increase in awareness will be maximum.

Posted by: Gerry | August 21, 2008 3:31 PM

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