At least one-third of the 60 million members of the Chinese Communist Party belong to a religious organization, reports the Catholic news agency AsiaNews (Feb. 28).
Moreover, half of those believers are reported to be regular participants in religious services, despite the fact that a ruling issued last October prohibits cadres from participating in religious activities for fear that this would corrode the Party and lead to its decline. There has been an ongoing campaign to promote atheism through media for the past two years, as well as a drive for revitalizing Marxism in the last few months.
Actually, observers consider that the growth of religious practice among Party members a consequence of the decline of Communist ideology and ethics; there has been a drop in Party membership, especially in rural areas, which means requirements for belonging to it have also become less stringent. In a number of places, believers who belong to the Party make no mystery of their adherence to religious ideas, especially in such places where there are high-level cadres who are themselves religious believers.
The development of religious beliefs among Party members in China is not the only change in the religious scene in Asia. Outside of China, Christianity is growing fast in Asia, not only among poor populations, but also among the upwardly-mobile, Michael Vatikiotis reports in Asia Times (March 2).
The phenomenon is quite obvious in places such as Singapore. There are also new, modern Muslim preachers at work in areas such as Indonesia. Thus China is not unique. Although there will be variations in scenarios from one country to another, there seems to be a “trend toward religiosity in Asian societies,” Vatikiotis concludes. — By Jean-François Mayer