Macau, a pair of islands on China’s eastern edge, is known the world over for its gambling. In fact, it surpasses Las Vegas, United States in gambling revenues, and the industry continues to grow. Colonized by the Portuguese in the 16th century, Macau was leased out by the Chinese government for centuries before finally being returned to Chinese control in 1999. Because of its European past, Macau is inhabited by a mixed Portuguese and Chinese people known as Macanese.
The Basic Law, which dictates the governmental and economic laws of the land, is a 1999 agreement giving Macau some political and economic autonomy from mainland China, while a Portuguese-style judicial system remains -- a testament to its European-settlement past. Like Hong Kong, Macau is a Special Administrative Region of China. The economy is mainly supported by gambling and tourism: gaming-related taxes accounted for over 70% of the government’s revenue in 2006. While many of the world’s economies have suffered since, Macau’s government enjoys a 46% budget surplus.
In the early days of Portuguese colonization, 95% of the population was Catholic, but by 2010 only 3% claimed Catholicism as their religion. Six percent of the population claims Christianity, but only 3% of that number is active. The gambling industry and its associated vices hinder church growth. Materialism and greed are rampant, and Macau is known as a “City of Sin.” Desperation and addiction are painfully common, and the Church has not ministered to such addicts. Related businesses such as prostitution and substance abuse thrive alongside the gambling industry and are widespread. Sex workers are trafficked from mainland China and other southeast Asian nations. Despite all this, the Church in Macau is experiencing a growth and unity unparalleled in recent history.