By Paul Hattaway
You are probably aware of the SARS epidemic which has affected life here in Asia. Many people are fearful of the future and feel hopeless. But what does the Chinese Church think about it? What is their perspective? Recent conversations with house church leaders revealed some interesting opinions on the whole crisis.
EPIDEMIC #1: Many Christians believe the whole SARS epidemic is a judgment from God on China. The place where the epidemic started was the city of Foshan in Guangdong Province. Foshan happens to be one of the most famous Buddhist strongholds in southern China. In fact, the name means Fo ("Buddha") and Shan ("Mountain"). Every year hundreds of thousands of people, from inside China and from places like Taiwan and Hong Kong, travel there to worship Buddha and visit ancient temples and monasteries. Secondly, the church leaders say that the new Chinese leader, Hu Jintao, is a professing Buddhist. He served as the top Communist leader in Tibet from 1988 to 1992, and soon after his rise to national leadership he used his influence to start rebuilding ancient Buddhist sites in Anhui Province.
EPIDEMIC#2: The Chinese Church is more focused on another kind of epidemic that has been sweeping China for much longer than SARS. Several years ago the government, frustrated by their inability to stop the growth of Christianity, issued a document in which they described the problem as jidujiao-re, or "Christianity fever."
This second kind of epidemic has continued to spread at an alarming rate. It does not distinguish between poor and rich, rural families or urban, educated or uneducated. All people are susceptible to infection by this highly contagious fever. The more the authorities try to clamp down on it and confine those identified as the main spreaders of the fever, the more it multiplies.
Church leaders report the SARS virus has made people much more open to the Gospel than ever before, and it is fair to estimate that tens of thousands of people are being born-again in China every day since SARS broke out. The Church has already produced Gospel literature to help point fearful people to the Great Physician. Please pray God would be glorified and honored at the present time in China, and many millions will find peace and salvation through Jesus Christ.