China wants to use Kenya to promote Christianity within its borders.
An 11-member delegation from the Far East country led by State for Religious Affairs minister Wang Zuoan is in Kenya to “copy good practices” that could help it grow Christianity.
The delegation, which is on a seven-day visit, will also find ways in which Christians in China can work with Kenyan churches, Mr Wang said.
There are five main religions in China: Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Islam and Christianity.
However, Christians have faced persecution.
The majority of Chinese are Buddhists (66 per cent), while Taoists make up 30 per cent of the population. Christians and Muslims are a minority.
Although Mr Wang put the number of Christians at 23 million, other sources say the figure is more than 40 million as many of them do not want to be known for fear of oppression.
But on Friday, the minister, whose team met Anglican archbishop Eliud Wabukhala, said China had adopted a policy of reform.
“We have freedom of religious belief. We used to treat Christians as foreigners but we now treat them as our people. We have come to learn from Kenyans their good practices.
“This is the first religious visit by a Chinese delegation to Kenya. Religion is good for development,” the minister said at Bishop’s Gardens in Nairobi.
The biggest challenge facing Christians in China, he said, was lack of qualified clergy “to preach to the Christians so that they make their contribution to the society”.
Mr Wang said he was happy with the localisation of Anglican Church in Kenya after independence, so that all its bishops are locals.
“We want to enhance relations and cooperation between the Chinese Church and the Kenyan Church,” he said.
The relationship between the church and the government is crucial for development, according to the minister.
Archbishop Wabukhala said he was happy that Christianity was flourishing in China.
“We have noticed a lot of activity between the Chinese Government and Kenya. We were feeling that the spiritual aspect was being left out, but now the minister responsible for religious affairs is here,” Archbishop Wabukhala said.