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Historical church reborn Christian
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-06-08 22:43

The 135-year-old downtown Holy Trinity Church, or "Red Church" as it is known for its brick colour, will become home to two Christian communities, officials have said.

The National Committee of Three-Self (Self-administration, Self-supporting, Self-propagation) Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China and the China Christian Council will move into the church at end of this year.

A Shanghai resident walks past the historical "Red Church'' where two new name plates now hang with the names of two Christian communities moving into the building June 8, 2004. The new home for the organizations comes signifies the emphasis on freedom of religion in the nation. There are an estimated 10 million Christians in the country, officials estimate. [newsphoto]
Big wooden signs with the names of the organizations were put in place in the front of the building on Sunday, which is described as full of beauty and history.

The church had long been used for purposes other than for Christian organizations. The hanging of the name plates indicates the building's return to the Christian community.

Religious activities are expected to resume by this Sunday, although preparation for a complete moving-in may still need time.

Ding Guangxun, honorary chairman of the committee, said the relocation of the two organizations will substantially improve the working conditions for the organizations' staff members.

This is the latest act showing government's support for freedom of religion, according to Ding, who is also honorary president of the China Christian Council.

According to officials of the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Ethnic and Religious Affairs, there are now more than 10 million Christians in the country. The two organizations, as non-governmental groups , administrate worship of all Chinese Christians.

The number of Christians in Shanghai is not available. Despite that, residents in this port city -- especially young people -- are showing strong interest in rituals and festivals related to Christianity, such as Christmas.

In so far as the red brick church goes, its style is unique and its exterior colour is pure red with a simple beauty.

The two organizations have 60 staff members, most Christians, said Xie Sheng, from the China Christian Council.

Most have expressed a fondness for the building, which will feature an area for offices and worship on the ground floor that is 7,000-square metres.

Officials of the Municipal Commission of Ethnic and Religious Affairs said they believe that citizens in China enjoy the freedom of religion in accordance with the Constitution. Normal religious activities are protected.

According to incomplete statistics, there are more than 100,000 venues for religious activities across the country, with a clergy of about 300,000.

In addition, there are more than 3,000 national and local religious organizations, and 74 religious colleges and schools.

Each religion publishes its own scriptures, books and magazines. For example, 30 million copies of the Bible have been printed.

To date, Chinese religious organizations have established relations with counterpart organizations and personnel in more than 70 countries and regions.

Earlier this year, construction of two Christian churches was started in Beijing to meet the needs from both Chinese and foreigners who reside there.

There are some 40,000 believers in Beijing. In the past 20 years, more than 1,500 people have been baptized each year in the capital.

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