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China On Track To Become World's Largest Christian Country By 2025, Experts Say

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CHINA CHRISTIANS
Clergy arrive for the funeral of the late head of the underground Catholic Church in Shanghai, Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang, as he lies in a funeral home in Shanghai on March 22, 2014. Thousands of mourners packed the funeral home to bid farewell to the 'underground' Catholic Bishop whose faith, they said, led him to endure decades of suffering at the hands of China's ruling Communist Party. AFP PHOTO/Peter PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images) | PETER PARKS via Getty Images

Just a few decades ago some wondered whether religion would survive Communist rule at all. However, as of 2010 there were 68 million Christians in China according to Pew Research.

Some experts, like Purdue University sociology professor Fenggang Yang, have no doubt, though, that China is on track to overtake the U.S. as the most Christian country in the world.

"By my calculations China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon," Yang told The Telegraph. "It is going to be less than a generation. Not many people are prepared for this dramatic change."

China has a long way to go to catch up with the U.S.'s Christian population. According to Pew Research, more than 78% of the U.S.'s population of nearly 318 million identifies as Christian.

The People's Republic of China, which is officially an atheist country, has a population of nearly 1.4 billion. As of 2010, just 5% of China's population, or roughly 67 million people were Chrisitian, according to Pew Research, making it the seventh largest Christian country.

Professor Yang, who wrote 'Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule', believes the number of Christians in China will rise to 160 million by 2025 and 247 million by 2030, just as America's Christian population appears to be waning.

This growth may not go unchallenged by the Chinese government, however, which routinely discriminates against Christians. The Telegraph reports that millions of China's Protestants worship in illegal 'house churches,' and the World Watch List ranks China as the 37th worst country in the world for Christian persecution.

"[The government does] not trust the church, but they have to tolerate or accept it because the growth is there," one house church leader told The Telegraph. "The number of Christians is growing – they cannot fight it."

Some Christians in China are coming out into the open, however. In early April thousands of Christians in Wenzhou, China formed a human shield around their church when the government threatened to bulldoze the building.

"A church is a sacred place and we are all brothers and sisters," protestor Jin Yufu told The Telegraph. "Christianity has made a big contribution to society in many ways."

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