In early April 2023, a plane touched down in Dallas, Texas. For the arriving 63 members of the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church, or Mayflower Church, it was an end to a four-year ordeal. The group fled China in 2019 to escape escalating harassment by Chinese authorities for their religious beliefs. They first fled to Jeju Island in South Korea, But the South Korean government refused them asylum. Then the Mayflower went to Thailand only to be arrested for visa violations. The worshipers finally managed to achieve asylum in the United States only after negotiations with Thai officials. The Mayflower Church’s story raises many questions about China’s religious landscape, and the state’s relations with new religious movements and popular worship. This interview with Lap Yan Kung, Chinese University of Hong Kong and Fenggang Yang, Purdue University, will discuss the lived religions under the Chinese communist regime. How has communism affected religious life in China? How do lived religions function in contemporary China? And how do we understand religion in China within a larger global context?
Fenggang Yang is Professor of Sociology, the founding Director of the Center on Religion and the Global East at Purdue University. He is the author of Atlas of Religion in China: Social and Geographical Contexts (2018), Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule (2012), and Chinese Christians in America: Conversion, Assimilation, and Adhesive Identities (1999), and the co-editor of more than ten books.
Kung Lap Yan Associate Professor, director of the Centre for Quality-Life Education and the dean of the Institute for Advanced Study in Asian Cultures and Theologies at the Divinity School of Chung Chi College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. His research focuses on religion and society, Christian ethics and theology. He’s the author of numerous books and articles in Chinese and English.