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Where does your bible come from?

HONG KONG (UCAN): Did you ever wonder where your bible is printed? Just out of interest, it may be worth having a look to see if it was done in China, as Greg Clarke, from the Bible Society of Australia, told a visiting delegation of the Chinese State Administration for Religious Affairs that most copies in Australian come from China.

When the Communist Party began its National Congress in Beijing on November 8, Amity Printing Company, the sole producer of bibles in China, celebrated number 100 million coming off the press in Nanjing, the provincial capital of eastern Jiangsu, on the same day.

“Printed copies could go around the earth 55 times,” Qiu Zhonghui, the chairperson of Amity, told about 100 Chinese and foreign guests at the celebration ceremony.

The Nanjing-based Protestant-run printing company is now the world’s largest printing house for bibles.

Amity Printing Company is a joint venture established by the Amity Foundation and the United Bible Societies in 1988. The former is an independent voluntary organisation founded in 1985 by Protestant people in China to promote social services, while the United Bible Societies is made up of 146 national bible societies operating in over 200 countries and territories around the world.

Of the 100 million bibles that Amity has printed, 60 million—including nine editions in minority languages—have gone to the China Christian Council and the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China.

Amity also prints the bible for the Catholic Church in China, so many copies do stay in the country.

“In the past decade, three million copies of the Chinese Catholic Bible were printed by Amity with the United Bible Societies providing the capital and the paper,” said Joseph Liu Yuanlong, the vice chairperson of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

That means roughly 37 million bibles produced by Amity have gone overseas to more than 70 countries in 93 languages.

It also points to a big disparity between the Protestants and Catholics in China. Some people too easily explain this huge difference to the split between the official and unofficial communities in the Catholic Church, figuring that this has stalled growth in the Catholic Church.

“I have reservations about such an explanation. We should not forget that the Protestant Church in China is also made up of government-sanctioned Church bodies and unregistered house Churches,” one person commented.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences projected in a white paper that there are 23 million Protestants in China, while Catholic Church research estimates its population at between six and 12 million. There seem to be more complicated reasons behind this bible numbers gap.

At a seminar in China in November this year, the vice director of the State Administration of Religious Affairs, Jiang Jianyong, said the Chinese Protestant Church has staged several biblical exhibitions overseas in recent years.

He was speaking to common criticisms outside of the country that China has no freedom of religious faith, leading to people thinking that it is necessary to smuggle bibles into China as the versions available are not complete.

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