LESHAN, Sichuan – It’s been 33 years since Amity Printing Company (APC), which prints Bibles for the churches in China as well as those overseas, was established.
As of September this year, APC reported that since 1988, it has printed 87 million Bibles for domestic needs out of which 2.3 million copies are for the Catholic Church. These Bibles are then distributed and sold in Church bookstores across China.
So are Bibles still hard to obtain in China’s churches today?
For some Catholic parishes in China, this still seems to be the case presently. According to Father Zhang of the Leshan Diocese, which has 70,000 Catholics, inaccessibility, financial constraints and a limited supply of Bibles to this area, coupled with a steady church growth, are the reasons why some China Catholics find it hard to get Bibles.
“Parishes in counties like Pengshan and Mingshan are hard to reach and some parishioners are very poor,” says Father Zhang.
“Likewise, parishioners in counties like Luding, Baoxing and Hanyuan are impoverished and many cannot afford a Bible. At the same time, we are seeing a steady average growth of 1000 new members each year, hence supply does not meet demand.”
Indeed, mountainous regions account for 66% of Leshan’s total land area while hilly places account for 21%. While contributing to the scenic beauty of the place, mountains and hills still pose a challenge to the distribution of Bibles. Incidentally, Leshan is also home to the world’s tallest Buddha sculpture.
Knowing the needs of the parishioners in Leshan, Father Zhang requested for 2000 free Bibles from the United Bible Societies (UBS) for his diocese in Dec 2019. UBS readily responded.
The free Bibles were greeted with a very positive reception from the parishioners.
Director Shi who is in charge of Hanyuan Parish’s learning centre, said that Bibles are rare in his area. “We are particularly thankful to UBS, for distributing free Bibles to us at this learning centre. This will help more Catholics who live on the big mountains to read the Bible more!”
Zhang Chunxia, 48, is a volunteer at Pengshan Parish who leads a Bible reading group. She was very moved on the day of the free Bible distribution as she looked at believers holding the Bibles donated by UBS. She said: “Now everyone can have one [Bible] on hand and we can all read the Bible together!”
An 80-year-old grandma from a deep mountainous area in Dingxing Parish is illiterate. When she saw others receiving the Bible, she thought it was a very good opportunity for her family to know the gospel of Christ. So she told the priest that although she cannot read, she would like to take one back home for her children and grandchildren. She also thanked UBS for the free Bible.
Another grateful recipient is Zhu Qiong who was raised in a Tibetan Catholic family in Luding county. More than 20 years ago, an elderly priest gave her a small Bible. “It’s like a treasure to me. I love reading the Bible; it is the whole of my life,” she shared. Now that she is nearly 60, the small Bible is difficult for her eyes; she was therefore very grateful to UBS for a new one. “I think the main theme of the Bible is love. We love others as we love ourselves.”
During the free Bible distribution, Priest Xiao of Luding Parish exhorted his congregation saying, “The Bible is the true Word of Christ left behind for us. It is the foundation of our faith. By reading and studying the Bible regularly, we will have an intimate grasp of the Holy Word and through this, we’ll experience peace and joy from the Lord.”
Please continue to pray for greater support in this project on “Affordable Bibles for China’s Millions” and for the Catholics in Leshan. May these Catholics experience the deep peace and joy of the Lord through reading His Holy Word regularly and sharing His love with those around them.
Story: Cynthia Oh
Photos: Leshan Diocese
2020 © United Bible Societies China Partnership