College Christians at 4 percent: surveys

By Wen Ya Source:Global Times Published: 2013-11-15 1:43:01

Christian college students in Beijing have remained at about 4 percent over the past decade, China Ethnic News (CEN), a newspaper based in Beijing, reported on Tuesday.

The data, which was based on three surveys conducted in 2001, 2009 and 2011, can provide reliable foundation for future research on China's Christian population, according to the report.

The first survey, conducted by Professor Yang Huilin from the Renmin University of China in 2001, randomly selected 306 samples from 6,184 undergraduate students in the university and found that 3.6 percent of the students claimed they were Christians.

In 2009, Yang expanded the scope of the survey to 37 colleges and universities in Beijing. After polling 12,407 students, Yang concluded that the percentage had risen slightly to 3.69 percent.

The most recent survey, conducted in 2011, was by Sun Shangyang, a professor from Peking University. Sun polled 2,000 students from 13 universities and found that 3.9 percent of the respondents said that they believed in Christianity.

"The percentage shows that the group of Christian college students is steady in the competition of all the other religions on campus," Wei Dedong, a vice dean of the School of Philosophy at the Renmin University of China, who wrote the article for China Ethnic News, told the Global Times on Thursday.

"The percentage is relatively low, which, from another perspective, could demonstrate how strong an influence traditional Chinese culture has cast on students," said Wei.

According to Yang's study, the percentage of Christian students varied with the subjects the students mostly studied. Those whose core subjects included the arts, sports or social studies were more inclined to be drawn to Christianity.

However, students of engineering or the sciences, tended to apply more critical thinking when it came to religion.

"Students with engineering and science majors are more rational than students of liberal arts. It is more difficult to convince them to believe in a religion," Sun Shangyang, a religion professor with Peking University, who participated in the 2011 survey, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Another question Yang's research answered was on the role of media in awakening students' interest to learn about Christianity.

Yang found that those who were introduced to the religion by families or friends were more likely to become Christians while those who first learned about the religion from books, movies or Internet were likely to remain non-believers.

"Reading and watching movies are more passive compared with interacting with one's friends and relatives, which explains why friends or family of Christians have a higher possibility to become Christians themselves," Wei said, adding religion classes offer students a perspective more academic and objective.

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