As thousands of evangelical leaders from 200 nations prepare to convene in Cape Town on Sunday, it looks like the more than 200 delegates from China have slim odds of attending.
Organizers of the third Lausanne Congress asked for "urgent prayer" Friday about signs that there may be "a concerted effort to prevent all Chinese participants from attending the Congress." NPR first reported Thursday that all 230 Lausanne delegates from China's house church community may be turned back at the nation's airports. Compass Direct gathers many details here. News even hit the NYT.
The National Association of Evangelicals is calling on China to retract the travel ban. China Aid points out that 200 seats were left vacant at the second Lausanne Congress in 1989 because Chinese delegates were prevented from making the trip to Manila
China's Foreign Ministry defended the actions to NPR by saying Lausanne organizers communicated secretively with illegal congregations and did not invite members of China's state-controlled church. "This act has openly challenged China's principle of an independent, autonomous, self-governing church. It is a flagrant interference in China's religious affairs," the statement said.
Compass Direct said a Chinese paper reported that members of the Three-Self Protestant Movement had wanted to attend but "were required to sign a document expressing their commitment to evangelism, which members of official churches could not do due to regulations such as an upper limit on the number of people in each church, state certification for preachers, and the confinement of preaching to designated churches in designated areas."
On the good news side, Lausanne organizers reported that the Cuban delegation successfully left Cuba and will arrive in Cape Town via London on Thursday.
CT covered the visa difficulties often faced by attendees of Christian gatherings in the U.S. here.
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