The Chinese government has said it will permit booklets of the Gospels, New Testaments, and full Bibles to be distributed during the Olympic Games, even though it normally controls publication of the Bible.
The Bible Society, a British-based Christian charity, has confirmed that 50,000 bilingual booklets containing the four Gospels will made available in the Athletes’ Village in Beijing and five other Olympic Cities. Additionally, 10,000 New Testaments and 30,000 Bibles will be printed, the Times Online says.
The nearly $400,000 cost of printing the Olympic Bibles will be met by the Bible Society. The Bibles themselves will be printed by Amity Printing Press at a new multimillion dollar facility which opened in Nanjing last month. Amity produces one Bible every second. It produced its 50 millionth in September.
For the first time, Bibles will be distributed outside of registered shops and with the approval of the Communist party. The Beijing Olympics organizing committee is allowing the free use of its logo on the Scriptures.
During China’s Cultural Revolution Bibles were banned and confiscated. Bible printing in China resumed in the 1980s with the assistance of Bible Societies from around the world.
Christians in China can own Bibles, but they still face persecution if they practice Christianity outside of registered churches. According to the Times Online, a June report from Christian Solidarity Worldwide and the China Aid Association said there has been a recent crackdown on “house churches” and claimed foreign Christians are being expelled at a rate “not seen since the 1950s.”
Olympic athletes and visitors will be allowed to take religious materials into the Olympic Village for their own use. On the other hand, The Times Online reports that Beijing officials are unlikely to permit the mass distribution of religious literature deemed to be propaganda material, such as the writings of the Dalai Lama.