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Pastors say China easing up on churches

BEIJING, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Protestant pastors in China say they are negotiating a reconciliation with the government that would allow "house churches" to operate openly.

Recent meetings between government officials and leaders of banned underground Protestant house churches marked the first step toward reconciliation in decades, the Rev. Ezra Jin said.

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Jin, who founded his Zion house church two years ago, said the government, including the police, have realized the time for confrontation is past.

"The government is anxious to work out the way to go forward," said Jin, noting he prays and sings with several hundred worshippers each Sunday in Beijing.

It's estimated as many as 100 million Christians, most of them Protestant, worship independently in China in violation of a law that says they must worship under a state-sponsored religious body, The Times of London reported Monday.

China officially recognizes five religions: Taoism, Buddhism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism -- each operating under government-dictated restrictions, the Times reported.

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