Chinese Bible app, WeDevote, achieved what many thought was impossible—getting 10 million installations in July 6.
WeDevote attracted many users from mainland China because of its user-friendly interface, understandable Bible reading plans, respect for copyright, and offline accessibility, reports World Magazine.
Under China’s tightening environment, outsiders thought there was no way we can create this app and survive, but we were able to do it. —Levi Fan, WeDevote co-founder
China only allows its government-sanctioned church, Tree-Self church, to distribute and sell Bibles. This makes it difficult for Chinese Christians to obtain a copy of Scriptures. The app is the easy way for them to read and study the Bible.
WeDevote co-founder Levi Fan celebrated the app’s achievement, a historic milestone in a country where there’s a crackdown on Christianity. “Under China’s tightening environment, outsiders thought there was no way we can create this app and survive, but we were able to do it,” he said.
A week after the milestone, the communist government implemented efforts to block its users’ access to the six-year-old app and removed it from app stores.
As of 2018, China’s new religious regulations were used to intimidate and control religious minorities. In addition to shutting down Christian bookstores, Beijing has also targeted online retailers. Popular online stores, Taobao and JD.com, felt the pressure from the government that they decided to stop selling Bibles.
Researchers explained that China continues to clamp down on Christianity because the government was uneasy with the growing number of Christians in underground churches, according to The Guardian.
“The government has orchestrated a campaign to ‘sinicize’ Christianity, to turn Christianity into a fully domesticated religion that would do the bidding of the party,” said Lian Xi, a professor at Duke University in North Carolina.
Local governments have closed hundreds of unregistered churches, or house churches. Last year, Guangzhou Bible Reformed Church was shut down for three months. “The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wants to be the God of China and the Chinese people,” said Huang Xiaoning, the church’s pastor. “But according to the Bible only God is God. The government is scared of the churches.”
Despite the communist party’s tightening grip on Christianity, the number of Christians worshiping in small groups is increasing.
“It’s hard to imagine, you look at the environment and it feels like you can’t do anything, but actually there are great opportunities,” said Fan.