In preparation for an evangelistic tour of China, Luis Palau befriended Zhao Qizheng, then minister of the State Council Information Office of China. They hit it off and eventually agreed to produce A Friendly Dialogue Between an Atheist and a Christian, originally published in China with the title Riverside Talks. While religious-rights abuses in China are still regularly reported, A Friendly Dialogue represents a step forward for religious freedom. CT managing editor Mark Galli sat down with Palau and Zhao to learn more about their project.
Why did you publish this book together?
Palau: I'd just gone to meet [Zhao] as minister of information. I thought it would help clarify why we were in China, which was to seek an opportunity to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. The thing that impacted me instantly was Mr. Zhao having read the Bible three times and being able to quickly digest the meaning of the Bible.
Zhao: Right now in the world there are lots of conflicts and disputes. We think that we should try to improve the mutual understanding between the East and the West, and certainly between China and the United States. I have visited about 50 or 60 countries, and I have met numerous foreign vips and all kinds of other people. But Mr. Palau is unique. I respect him.
Mr. Zhao, what arguments about Christianity were most persuasive to you?
Zhao: In history, Christian missionaries made contributions to China's development. They brought Western civilization to China. But the situation changed in the 19th century: The Western powers invaded China, and in this process some missionaries helped those invaders. So the Chinese people changed their attitude towards missionaries. I think what Mr. Palau is doing is to heal. Just ...1