South & Southwest China: Guangdong, Guizhou, Hainan, Sichuan, Yunnan, 2 Autonomous Regions (Guangxi Zhuang and Chongqing) Over 350 million people live here. Only around 4.5% are Christian.
- The unreached peoples of South and Southwest China number tens of millions of individuals, in hundreds of different groups, each with different cultures and languages. Difficult geography and poor transportation keep many villages isolated from the gospel. The Holy Spirit worked powerfully among some tribal groups of Yunnan in the last century (Lisu, Hmong, Wa, Jingpo, Nu). Other peoples have a large number of Christians, but it remains only a small beginning.
- Guangxi is one of China’s least-developed and most remote provinces, and perhaps up to 90% unevangelized. The Zhuang people are China’s largest ethnic-minority population. Pray for Christians to reach even the most remote corners of this region.
- Yunnan’s minorities number 16 million, in at least 208 peoples. Steep mountains, different languages, old hatreds, and spiritual bondage all hinder the gospel. 95 peoples in Yunnan have no known Christians.
- The Nosu peoples (Sichuan) once dominated their area and made slaves of Han Chinese until the Communist government gained control here in 1953. The Li people groups (Hainan) have a history of rebellion against Chinese rule. No Scripture exists in the 7 main languages of the Li. Tibetan people groups (Sichuan) are unreached. Many of these people groups are related, but they cannot understand each other’s languages. The Bible is available for the Khampa and Amdo Tibetans, but no other group has access to it. Hundreds of other minorities, such as the Miao and Hmong (mostly in Guizhou), and the Yao- Mien (mainly in Guangxi), need to hear the gospel. Pray for the small Christian churches in them to become strong, effective witnesses.
- Guangdong was the first province evangelized by Protestants. Robert Morrison arrived in Macau in 1807. British seizure of Hong Kong and Western opium wars against China soured Guangdong's people to the gospel for many years. Christianity is still widely perceived as a foreign imposition; the province's Christian percentage is less than half the national level; most adhere to a blend of traditional Chinese superstitions and modern materialism. Pray for an increased openness to the gospel.
- This province has been economically booming for decades, and its people have a long tradition of being traders and entrepreneurs. Shenzen, its primary port, grew from a small fishing village to a metropolitan area of over 12 million people in the span of 25 years! Migrant labour traditionally fuelled Guangdong's growth and wealth, with up to 30 million people from elsewhere working seasonally in the province. But with the rise of the economy in other parts of China, Guangdong's factories are now short of workers. Rapid increases in trade and wealth, the high proportion of migrants, famously crooked local officials and historically powerful organized crime groups create an environment ripe for corruption, exploitation, crime, sexual immorality and drug abuse - all of which have rates higher here than nationally. Pray that such moral declension might be addressed; pray that the Holy Spirit would work in individuals and society for God-pleasing change.
Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region
- Guangxi is one of China's least-developed and most-remote provinces, with one of the largest ethnic-minority populations. The isolated and mountainous terrain hampers development; the porous border with Vietnam and prevalent poverty put it at high risk of drug and human trafficking. Pray for development that is healthy for society, will oppose social evils and will not exploit minority populations.
- The Zhuang people are China's largest ethnic-minority population. They number around 17 million and are comprised of 17 sub-groups. Less than 1% are Christian. Most follow traditional animist beliefs, often combined with ancestor worship, Buddhism and Daoism. Younger generations are more likely to be urbanites, atheists and struggling to retain their cultural distinctiveness. Yet they are somewhat responsive to the gospel. FEBC radio programmes and the JESUS film in the largest of their dialects have helped in this, and the NT translation in progress will go a long way toward their evangelization and their cultural preservation.
- Praise God for the continued growth of the Church; more areas and peoples than ever have been impacted by the good news. Two Miao peoples, A-Hmao and Gha-Mu, are majority Christian, and many Yi peoples have large Christian minorities (Guopu 20%, Lagou 35%, Wusa Nasu 30%, Tushu 10%). Most of these Christians are in the northwest. The 10,000 Christians of 1949 have grown to around 2.2 million in 2010. A number of peoples that had no believers now have small but growing churches among them.
- The challenge of the unreached also continues to be great. Spiritual breakthrough in a few ethnic groups obscures the fact that most peoples remain unreached. Pray for:
- The 21 Miao peoples - three have small Christian minorities, but 11 have no known believers.
- Many of the peoples indigenous to Guizhou with no Christians whatsoever, including the four Yao peoples. The three million-plus Bouyei are only about 0.5% Christian and remain over 70% unevangelized. Most Hmong groups, as well as the Hmu and Shui, are very populous peoples but with only small numbers of believers. Pray for local and outside Christians to reach out to these.
- Hainan's subtropical climate and pristine environment have turned it into a booming economy focused on tourism. This is rapidly transforming a formerly sleepy island, attracting many well-heeled mainlanders, but also raising costs to beyond what many locals can afford. This bubble has already burst once. Pray against Hainan becoming an island of hedonism and iniquity for the super-wealthy; pray also that the opening up of the island might bring a greater degree of freedom to evangelize this once-frontier area.
- Sichuan has the lowest Christian percentage of the Han-majority provinces. The Catholics arrived in 1696, and LMS and CIM in 1868/81. But even with recent significant growth among Catholics and in house churches, no major breakthrough has been seen. Pray that the spiritual mountains that ring this province might be breached and millions turn to Christ.
- Chengdu, with 4.3 million people in its city proper and 11 million in its larger conurbation, is a key city for the whole of western China. In addition to the growing TSPM churches in the city, there are over 130,000 believers in the house church networks. The gospel is making great headway in this city. There are many ethnic-minority groups, especially Tibetans. Pray for this needy city and those seeking to reach it.
- Yunnan is, ethnically, China's most complex province. There are over 200 different ethno-linguistic peoples, but possibly up to 400 groups regard themselves as distinct peoples. There were famous and dramatic workings of the Holy Spirit among some of the tribal groups earlier last century, especially among the Lisu, Hmong, Wa, Jingpo and Nu. The Eastern Lipo, Hani, Maru, Ayi, Eastern Nasu, Naluo, Lawa, Lashi and Nu peoples also have a large proportion of their population who are Christian, but out of hundreds of peoples, this is only a humble beginning. Although the Church thrives in a few ethnic groups, the mountainous terrain, vast numbers of cultures and languages, ancient hostilities and spiritual bondage all hinder the spread of the gospel. Pray that many more peoples may experience similar spiritual breakthroughs.
- The Han Chinese Christians have experienced notable church growth in the last 10 years, among both Catholics and Protestants, registered and unregistered. Yet the percentage of Han Chinese in Yunnan who are Christian is still only at the national average. Pray for the growth of the Church among them, and pray for an awakening to the spiritual needs of the ethnic minorities among whom they live.
- A combination of social evils plagues many peoples in Yunnan. The proximity to the Golden Triangle countries of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos, as well as to Vietnam, means that drug trafficking and human trafficking for the sex trade are constant threats. Widespread drug abuse as well as prostitution/sexual exploitation have led to Yunnan possessing China's highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS. The opening of the area to trade, tourism and transport combined with the region's endemic poverty accelerate these destructive patterns. Pray that the government, NGOs and morally concerned people among Yunnan's indigenous groups might be able to put an end to these evils. Praise God that some Christian peoples, such as the Lisu, have demonstrated the harmony and wholesomeness of communities who follow Jesus.
- Bible translation is a massive unmet need. The Bible is available for four languages, the NT in a further four and work is in progress in another six languages. The great majority of languages have nothing; a large number of these have in fact no written system at all. Many languages have a high degree of mutual intelligibility with another language, so good surveys are necessary to ascertain translation needs. Pray for this vital ministry to be expanded in Yunnan.
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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.