Tim Gardam reports for the BBC on Christians in China.
Chairman Mao once described religion as “poison”, and the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 70s attempted to eradicate it. Driven underground, Christianity not only survived, but with its own Chinese martyrs, it grew in strength.
More people go to church on Sunday in China than in the whole of Europe.
It is impossible to say how many Christians there are in China today, but no-one denies the numbers are exploding.
The government says 25 million, 18 million Protestants and six million Catholics. Independent estimates all agree this is a vast underestimate. A conservative figure is 60 million. There are already more Chinese at church on a Sunday than in the whole of Europe.
The new converts can be found from peasants in the remote rural villages to the sophisticated young middle class in the booming cities.
Chinese Christianity is exploding: China will soon become the largest Christian country on earth. On Easter morning, in downtown Beijing, I watched five services, each packed with over 1,500 worshippers. Sunday school was spilling on to the street.
However, these numbers are dwarfed by the unofficial “house churches”, spreading across the country, at odds with the official Church which fears the house churches’ fervour may provoke a backlash.