Beijing: Chinese youngsters are increasingly taking to religion in the officially athiest communist nation, with Islam having the largest number of followers under 30 years of age, specially among minorities like Uygurs and Hui communities.
The China Religion Survey 2015, released by the National Survey Research Centre (NSRC) at Renmin University here, found that among the five main religions in China - Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam - the latter has the largest number of young believers.
As many as 22.4 per cent of the believers of Islam are aged below 30.
Catholicism ranks second with 22 per cent.
Buddhism and Taoism, however, have the highest number of followers older than 60, with 54. 6 per cent and 53.8 per cent, respectively, state-run Global Times reported today.
The survey included interviews from 4,382 religious sites across 31 regions between 2013 and 2015.
"Islam tends to have a younger demographic. Most believers of Islam belong to ethnic minority groups and it is common for a woman to give birth to several children.
"The children would also become Muslims while it is very rare to have an adult converting to Islam," Wei Dedong, a professor of Buddhist studies at the School of Philosophy at Renmin University of China, who participated in the research said.
China has about 20 million Muslims, mostly from Xinjiang which has about 11 million Uygurs.
Xinjiang has witnessed a spate of violent incidents in and outside the province for the last few years over Uygurs protests regarding the increasing settlements of Hans from other provinces.
China blames East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) for the violence.
Also, China has substantial number of Muslims among Hui community in Ningxia province.
Protestantism has the largest number of places of worship while Buddhism has the highest number of followers in China.
The figures show that the government is more willing to take the initiative to take care of the religions and to resolve conflicts, Wei told Global Times.
Wang Meixiu, a research fellow at the Institute of World Religion Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the figure shows that the development of religions in China is healthy, though there is room for improvement such as the approval procedures of constructing new buildings and religious site registration.