Islam is an officially recognized religion in China, but conflict with some ethnic minority groups makes it a sensitive matter. Almost all Muslims come from the indigenous Uyghur, Kazak, Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Tatar, Salar, Dongxiang, and Hui groups. Recently, Muslim minorities have suffered terrible treatment, including but by no means limited to the internment of over 1 million Uyghurs in “re-education camps”. Many have labelled the government’s treatment of Uyghurs as genocide. Few Christians in China live and work among Muslim peoples, and work among them becomes increasingly difficult due to government policies. Ask God to call more workers to serve these often isolated and sometimes oppressed minorities.
The 500 million-plus captives of hollow and deceptive philosophies found in ancient practices such as Daoism, Buddhism and Confucianism and in the newer Falun Gong movement. These traditions are experiencing growth - with Confucian teachings especially being promoted and Buddhism rapidly growing. Young people are not so attracted, but many professionals and older generations seek such grounding and transcendent meaning. Pray that they might turn their hearts toward Truth and the freedom only the gospel can give.
Children and young people under age 15 number nearly 300 million. They face different pressures from the previous generation's hardships. Modernization, both in rural and urban areas, has come with drastic increases in juvenile crime and sexual permissiveness. One of the great needs of China today is for adults to intentionally invest in the discipleship and training of children and youth. Pray for:
- Training within homes. When parents are active in the Church and maintain careers, there is often little time for attention to children. Pray for strength, endurance and ability for parents, extended families and community members to invest time into families and households, the most enduring social structure and the future of the Chinese Church.
- Training within churches. Some TSPM/CCC churches have Sunday schools and youth programmes, but many churches lack adults who are able to invest in this crucial work. Effective, God-honouring resources and access to the Bible are important, but not always available.
- Christian educators and schools. Atheism remains the underlying philosophy of Chinese education, itself a crucial tool for shaping this generation's worldview. Pray for sound Bible teaching in churches and homes that enables students to discern truth from false teachings. In urban settings, the desire for elite, private schools is on the rise. Pray for Christians who will seize the opportunity to found excellent educational institutions attractive to Chinese families seeking such.
University students are at the core of much recent church growth. Now numbering over 20 million (a 17 million increase since 2000!), these students are set to continue this key role in growth and maturity of the Chinese Church. Pray for:
- Christians among them to be built up in their faith and to be fervent witnesses. Universities increasingly offer religious study programmes, even Christian study programmes. Still, the influence of atheism pervades higher education, where diverse ideologies compete for the minds of youth. Pray for excellent Christian academicians from around the world who will teach in these programmes and mentor students through their university years.
- The establishment of Bible study groups on every one of the 2,000 campuses throughout China - such groups are increasing in number. Pray also for outreach efforts near campuses through cafés where students can find Bibles and mingle with Christians.
- Those who study abroad. Well over 100,000 Chinese go overseas annually for study, but only about 25% of those return. Most go to Japan, Hong Kong, USA, Europe or Australia. US universities in particular see great increases in Chinese undergraduate and graduate students. Among them is an unprecedented openness, and a good proportion have come to the Lord. Pray for Christians in these countries to take advantage of opportunities to welcome and witness to Chinese students. Pray also for Chinese who return home as Christians to link well with their local faith communities - usually amid vastly different situations from those where they met Jesus.
Ethnic minorities - non-Chinese peoples comprise 10.1% of the population, 135 million people in 474 distinct ethno-linguistic groups. Pray for:
- Global concern for the evangelization of these numerous unreached peoples. Pray that a doorway to many peoples, still inaccessible to outsiders, might be opened or re-opened in cases where it has been closed in recent years.
- Greater involvement of Chinese Christians - both minorities and Han - in reaching them. In almost every case, great sensitivity and humility will be needed, especially by the dominant Han Chinese, in whatever missiological approach is taken.
- The planting and growth of indigenous churches and discipling of leaders. Pray for those who will labour to make God's Word available in every heart language so that each indigenous Church will have direct access to the only basis for faith and godly living.
The Chinese diaspora, present in nearly every nation in the world and numbering as many as 40 million. In many countries they are a very strong Christian community, but in others they remain unevangelized. Emigration from China has occurred for centuries; changes occurring in China today witnesses new populations moving to new areas. Sparsely populated Russian Siberia is one possible destination of potentially millions of Chinese. The Arab Gulf states employ countless Chinese labourers. And new Chinese-sponsored economic activities in Africa and Latin America bring many to these lands; in Africa alone are an estimated 750,000 Chinese labourers and business people.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.