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“Persecution causes the Church to grow in China today just as it did in pagan Rome”

The conference “Under Caesar’s Sword” showed how Christians react to persecution.

“Christianity has been growing very fast in China. Around 1980, there were about 6 million protestants and Catholics in China. By 2010, thirty years later, the number of Christians increased to 67 million, from 8 million to 67 million. The annual average growth rate is 10%.”

Fenggang Yang, from Purdue University was one of the participants in the “Under Caesar’s Sword” conference in Washington DC. The conference’s focus was to study the response to religious persecution in the world. In his view, repression is generating a stronger Church in China.

“Of course the persecution in the last five years has increased. That is true. But this is the situation more or less like the fourth Century Roman Empire, when in the year 303 The Great Persecution started. But ten years later there was the Edict of Milan, that granted freedom to Christians. This is very similar in China today.”

Professor Yang’s testimony was one of the most listened to at the “Under Caesar’s Sword”” conference, which was opened by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington.

The information from “Under Caesar’s Sword”  came from reports conducted by the universities of Notre Dame and Georgetown. Studies reveal that in forty-three percent of cases, a Christian’s response to persecution is passive aggressive as opposed to confrontation. Furthermore, thirty-eight percent seek association with other religious communities or civil authorities.

It is precisely this search for ties with other entities that has allowed significant progress in the defense of religious freedom. It also has had other good consequences.

“Surprising, among Christian strategies of association is forgiveness. Forgiveness, too, can be an invitation to conversion and reconciliation, and thus a form on building ties.”

The success of this approach to other religions has been proven in Indonesia, one of the few Muslim-majority countries where the situation of Christians has improved.