THE government of China has called on Churches to play a
significant part in caring for the country's growing elderly
population. At a conference about the place of Christianity in
China, which was held in Shanghai last month, government officials
admitted that they needed the help of faith groups to cope with an
increasingly ageing population.
China has the world's second-largest economy, after the United
States, and the world's largest population: more than 1.3
The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences suggests that, by 2040,
nearly 20 per cent of the rural population of China will be aged
over 65. A government official, Wang Xinhau, described this as "a
big challenge for the authorities, and for the Church. The
government welcomes the support of the Church. We lack the
resources to meet the needs that we face; so we need religious
organisations in order to do so."
Traditionally, younger relatives care for the elderly in China.
But, as more people now migrate to the cities for work, they often
leave their children and elderly parents in their home villages,
sometimes for years.
A leading Chinese cleric, the Revd Xu Xiaohong, said that the
Church "has to think about how it changes to meet the needs of
society. Preachers in their churches should be encouraging their
congregations to care not just about personal salvation, but also
about meeting social needs."
A guest speaker at the conference, which was sponsored by the
Bible Society, James Featherby, who chairs the Church of England's
Ethical Investment Advisory Group, said that care needed to go
beyond the Church and into Chinese business practice.
"If the purpose of business is to contribute to society and to
your community, good things flow from that," he said. "But if your
primary purpose is to make money, then a whole series of behaviours
flow from that." Business practice in China, he said, needed "to
change, as it does in the UK".
The international programme manager for the Bible Society, David
Smith, said: "I think the whole story of the Bible shows us how to
care for the least, the last, and the lost. Christians should be at
the forefront of that provision."
He was hopeful that this would soon be the case in China.