The organisers of a global meeting of evangelical Christians has expressed disappointment at the barring of a delegation from China from attending its gathering in South Africa.
"The presence and contribution of Chinese delegates would have enriched all the Congress participants and contributed to a more complete understanding of our common humanity and the diversity of ethnicity and cultural expression that enriches us all," said the grouping in a statement.
Up to 4,500 participants from around the globe are gathering in Cape Town from 16-25 October 2010 for the 3rd Lausanne Congress for World Evangelisation.
At least 200 Protestant Christians were barred from travelling to Cape Town by authorities in Beijing, says a report carried by the Roman Catholic news agency AsiaNews.it.
The churches are said to oppose membership of China's Three-Self Patriotic Movement, a group gathering state-approved Protestant denominations in consultation with the Chinese government.
"It is with profound regret that we, as the host country for Cape Town 2010, have learned that the Chinese authorities have disallowed the Chinese invitees to exit China to attend the Congress," said Peter Tarantal, chair of the South African Lausanne Committee.
"The absence of the Chinese delegation is a great disappointment, and the loss of shared experience and participation from our Chinese brothers and sisters is particularly acute given that South Africa and China enjoy such good bilateral relations. The much-anticipated Africa – China dialogue scheduled to take place at the Cape Town Congress is now postponed," he declared.
"Lausanne Congress participants selected for Cape Town 2010 express wide-ranging theological and cultural diversity of the Church in every country," said Doug Birdsall, executive chair of The Lausanne Movement.
"The selection criteria and process used by indigenous leaders in China was the same used by other national and regional selection teams around the world."
"The Lausanne planners have no intention of challenging the Chinese government’s principle of independent, autonomous and self-governed churches," Mr Birdsall continued.
"We recognise the nature of the Christian community and their contribution in Chinese society while respecting China’s established institutions. We very much regret that our intentions and the decentralised invitation process to our Chinese brothers and sisters have been wrongly perceived," he concluded.
More on the Lausanne Movement: http://www.lausanne.org/