Fifty Million Bibles Printed in China
by Diane J. Allen
The 50 millionth Bible printed in China has rolled of the presses of the Amity Printing Company in Nanjing, a GBGM Advance Special project, a cause for joyful celebration on December 8, attended by over 200 persons including Bishop K.T. Ting, 93, one of the most influential Chinese theologians in modern history. Bishop Ting and other committed church leaders have helped guide China's Protestants through the changes, challenges and opportunities of China's significant 'open door' reforms. There is now in China unprecedented church growth and revitalization with churches being reopened and newly built at a steady rate of 50 per month for nearly three decades.
"After the Cultural Revolution ended and churches began reopening in 1979, the most immediate priority was the printing of Bibles, getting scripture into the hands of Chinese Christians," explains the Rev. Dr. Cao Shengjie, president of the China Christian Council.
In the early 1980s Protestant Christian leaders challenged the government that since citizens of China had had restored to them the Constitutional right to religious freedom, the government had the responsibility to provide facilities so that the church could print Christian scriptures, specifically the Holy Bible. The government agreed and in those very early days the first Bibles printed in China after the Cultural Revolution era came off the only presses available at that time, owned by the People's Liberation Army.
Bishop Ting acknowledged at the December 8th celebrations the tremendous responsibility in caring for the spiritual needs of China's Protestant communities and said, in a statement read by Amity's General Secretary, Mr. Qiu Zhonghui, "my dream was to have a Bible printing press of our very own." In 1985, Christian leaders in China, among them Ting and the late Dr. Han Wenzao, formed the Amity Foundation a social service organization designed to contribute to China's social development, make Christian presence more widely known to the Chinese people, and facilitate people-to-people exchange and sharing. Amity soon saw the opportunity to develop a printing press component that would both give priority to the printing of the Bible and Christian literature, and contribute to Amity's social service work.
In 1986, Amity formed a joint venture with the United Bibles Societies and the Amity Printing Company began its work in earnest a year later. To surprised visitors hearing of Bible printing in China for the first time, Ting patiently reminded them, "We are Bible-loving, Bible-honoring, and Bible-studying Christians here in China."
From the start, the Amity Printing Company had to hire and retrain technicians from rural areas who knew at best only about tractors, said Amity. "We were delighted at that time to think we could print up to 600,000 copies of the Bible per year," Mr. Qiu Zhonghui, also the president of the Amity Printing Company board of directors, told the United Methodist China Program. He continued, "Today the Amity Printing Company prints six million Bibles each year. When its new printing press plant goes into operation in early 2008, complete with Timson T-32 presses, we will have the capacity to print up to 1.2 million Bibles per month."
While that capacity is a long-term goal not likely to be reached in the immediate future, it doesn't change the fact that the Amity Printing Company is now without doubt one of the best and largest printers of the Bible in the world, according to the United Bible Societies. Of the 50 million copies now printed, 41 million were for use in China, and nine million were in response to overseas church bodies placing orders with Amity, Bibles in 75 different languages, including Spanish, German, French, English and many African languages. Recalls Mr. Qiu of a 2006 visit to the Amity Printing Company by the Anglican Archbishop of the Nigeria, the Rt. Revd Peter Akinola, "As Rev. Akinola, walked by some stitched papers, he just happened to pick some up. He let out a cry of absolute surprise and delight to find that, there, ready for binding, were section of the Bible in his native language, an order made by churches in Africa which Amity was ready to fill."
The December 8th celebrations were also attended by Mr. Ye Xiaowen, director of the government's State Administration of Religious Affairs, the highest ranking government official dealing with religious policies in the People' Republic of China. Mr. Ye also announced that the Bibles to be supplied at the 2008 Olympic Games to Olympic participants will be printed by the Amity Printing Company and will be made available free of charge. His announcement underscored what the Rev. Dr. Cao Shengjie had shared earlier. Said the Rev. Dr. Cao, "The Olympic Games are a great opportunity for sharing between Chinese Christians and Christians around the world." She added that churches in China's capital, Beijing, and other Olympic venue cities also are eagerly getting ready to welcome visitors from all parts of the world to their section of God's global village. Having a supply of Bibles ready for Olympic participants is just one way Chinese Christians will show hospitality to guests worldwide.
United Methodists are no strangers to Amity's Bible printing work. Global Ministries has supported the printing of Bibles in China through Amity since 1987. Support of Bible printing through Advance #11422A, the Amity Printing Press, Bibles, Nanjing, helps to keep the cost of an ordinary Chinese pew Bible at approximately $1.50.
Diane J. Allen is a United Methodist missionary serving as China Program Associate with the United Methodist China Program. She can be supported through Advance #10163Z. Readers may also be interested in the monthly update, China News Summary.
Date posted: Feb 11, 2008