The Protestant church in Inner Mongolia is still quite small but growing rapidly. Inner Mongolia is also a stronghold of Catholicism. Catholics number at least 200,000. There are four bishops appointed by the CPA, but there are also three “underground” bishops loyal to the Vatican.
Compass Direct – August 2002 – Inner Mongolia is a huge region that straggles along the Mongolian border for a thousand miles. Most of the area is a sparsely inhabited wilderness, from the burning deserts of the Gobi to the thickly forested mountains on the Siberian frontier. Over the last century, Chinese settlers have moved into the main cities and now constitute a majority of the inhabitants. The total population in 1999 was 23,620,000, of which only about 4 million are Mongols.
The Protestant church in Inner Mongolia is still quite small but growing rapidly. When the Chinese Communists took over power in 1949, there were only 11,789 Protestants in this huge area served by 33 pastors, 76 elders and 62 evangelists. On the eve of China’s Cultural Revolution in 1965, the number of believers had shrunk to 8,775. The following year, all churches were closed. Thirteen years of fierce persecution followed. Churches started to re-open after 1980.
In 1982, there were 12,000 registered Protestants. But the number of ministers had been decimated by persecution. Only six pastors, 22 elders and 50 evangelists were employed in the state-controlled churches.
However, by 1988, the total number of Christians had shot up to 71,000. Between 1987 and 1993, thirty-nine new churches and 477 government-registered meeting points were established. In March 2000, the state-church magazine Tian Feng reported 160,000 Christians and 962 registered churches and meeting points. But in November 2001, it gave figures of 172,000 believers and “over 1,000” official churches and meeting points.
Inner Mongolia is also a stronghold of Catholicism. Catholics number at least 200,000.
In 1997, the government-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA) opened about 50 Catholic churches and 130 meeting points. There are four bishops appointed by the CPA, but there are also three “underground” bishops loyal to the Vatican. About 80 priests are active, over half are young men, and two priests are Mongols. Mongol Catholics in the diocese of Yimeng number over 2,000.
Protestant house churches are also numerous in Inner Mongolia. The city of Wuyuan has strong house churches in the “Jesus Family” tradition, which stresses a simple lifestyle and vigorous evangelism.
However, the overwhelming majority of Protestant Christians in both the official church and the house churches appear to be Han Chinese, and most live in urban areas. In Hohhot, the capital, there are at least 10,000 Christians associated with the official church, which has four large churches in the city center.
The church faces two major obstacles: persecution and cults. In recent years, churches have been demolished in some areas of Inner Mongolia by hostile local authorities. In some areas, Christianity is virtually banned. Because of the lack of trained pastors, cults have made easy inroads. Over the last year, 80 percent of the house churches in the Linhe area on the banks of the Yellow River in the western part of the region have been taken over by the cult Lightning from the East, which proclaims a female messiah.
“Inner Mongolia is one of the most backward areas in terms of gospel witness,” laments a house church leader who is overseer for 30 congregations in the Hohhot area. “Today many house church leaders here have received extreme teaching, even heresy, from overseas, particularly Singapore and South Korea. We thank God for Christian radio, which is helping to build up our remote congregations.”
Copyright © 2002 Compass Direct
Posted on Religioscope with permission from Compass Direct.
Compass Direct (Santa Ana, California) is a Christian news service dedicated to providing news on situations and events facing Christians persecuted for their faith. Compass Direct maintains an extensive network of news bureaus and correspondents around the world.
[Compass Direct has now been replaced by www.worldwatchmonitor.org – 20.08.2016]