China (MNN) — The ThirdInternational Congress
on World Evangelization in Lausanne kicks off tomorrow in Cape Town, South
Africa, and ends on October 25th.
It's an evangelical gathering of church leaders from all
over the world, amassing to work more efficiently together for the Gospel. In past meetings, major ministry directions,
like the 10/40 Window, got defined.
This year, the event will be attended by about 4,000 church
leaders from over 200 nations.
The first Lausanne Congress was in 1974, after which the
Lausanne Covenant was created, aimed at keeping the mission alive. When the second Congress convened in 1989
in Manilla, 200 seats were empty.
These seats belonged to the delegation from China. This year, as the third Congress convenes,
those same seats are likely to be empty once more. Bob
Fu is the China analyst for Voice of the Martyrs USA and the founder of China
Aid Association. "At least 21 Lausanne
delegates in Beijing were prevented from going. Most of them, among the 200, were
all blocked from either the airport or even in their homes, under house
China's Foreign Ministry accused
the Lausanne organizers of not issuing an official invitation to China's
state-controlled church and of having secret communications with Christians
from private assemblies.
However, Fu says the
official church approached the Lausanne
organizers and expressed interest, but refused to
sign the Lausanne Covenant which specifically requires members to commit to
world evangelism and the Great Commission.
Authorities then warned delegates
against attending, detaining one for 15
days, confiscating passports, and preventing still others from leaving their
homes. Fu explains, "Unfortunately, the Chinese government
designated this evangelical world conference as ‘anti-China.'"
The delegates are also members of
the unregistered house church movement. Unfortunately, consequences by association are a reality. "The churches associated with those delegates are already facing a crackdown."
There is also a growing concern
that this could signal more trouble for
China's underground Christians. "The
churches that are associated nationwide in China will be caught up by this new
wave of persecution."
Since the Manilla Congress in 1989, tens of millions of
Christians in China are thriving in the Church of Jesus Christ, and China
experiences the fastest growth of Christians. They deserve to be heard amongst the global
Fu is calling for action. "The
Lausanne delegation should speak up for those who suffer for their testimony to
the Lord Jesus, and promise to pray and work for their freedom. The Lausanne Covenant says, ‘We refused to be
intimidated by their fate."'
Fu also urges believers to "pray
for their family members, and pray that they will stand firm on the Gospel and
without compromising their faith."