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The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization is currently happening in Cape Town (16-25 Oct 2010). Our man on the spot, Iwan Russell Jones, is blogging for us from inside the congress with news and comment. Check back here each day for new posts.

Lausanne is held in collaboration with the World Evangelical Alliance. The 2010 congress has brought together some 4,000 leaders from 198 countries for dialogue and action on the critical issues of today, including world faiths, poverty, HIV/AIDS and persecution.

Lausanne is also running a virtual congress with video clips and other resources. There's also a Twitter feed and Facebook page.

Desmond Tutu: the missing honoured guest

Posted by Iwan Russell Jones on 25 October 2010, 8:09

All week I’ve been waiting for some significant acknowledgement of the South African context, especially of apartheid. I’d imagined that at either the opening or closing ceremonies much would have been made of the road that South Africa has travelled in recent years and its emergence onto the world stage after years of pariah status.

But there was nothing. It’s almost as though it never happened. The World Cup merited a few mentions, but not the racist ideology that dominated this country for more than a century.

Apartheid is not ancient history. It only came to an end in 1994 and the bitter struggle against it is still fresh in many people’s minds. In that struggle Christians played a major role – on both sides.

On the one side were the majority of white Christians who either subscribed wholeheartedly to the perverted theology underpinning apartheid, or, as in the case of most evangelicals, did nothing to oppose it on the grounds that believers shouldn’t get involved in ‘politics’. It’s a shameful story that the country is still coming to terms with.

On the other side were a host of mainly black Christians and some towering leaders like the Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, and Beyers Naudé, a one-time member of the Broederbond, who broke with the Afrikaaner establishment and with his church over what he named as the idolatry of white racism.

These Christians suffered greatly – ‘for righteousness’ sake’. They explicitly described their opposition to apartheid as part of their Christian discipleship and their witness to Jesus Christ.

Much was made earlier in the week about the evangelical commitment to truth. We also heard today in the Bible study about the call to spiritual battle against the ‘the powers of this dark world’ that seek to dominate and destroy human life.

Naudé and Tutu were no strangers to the gospel. They were determined to speak the truth before ‘the powers’ and they should have been honoured by the third Lausanne Congress. Beyers Naudé died in 2004, but it would have been a wonderful way to mark Desmond Tutu’s recent retirement from public life. Neither of them got even a mention from the main speakers at Lausanne. That just cannot be right.


Political revisionism. If we don’t mention it, maybe we can pretend it didn’t happen. ‘Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it’!

Richard Harding, Tue 26 Oct, 21:22

You are right, Iwan. I was myself waiting for the connection to South African history and the Christian reaction during and after apartheid. There should have been notice of the Kairos document (1985), and the Evangelical Witness by the Concerned Evangelicals (1986). And maybe also the answer (1987) by the Evangelical Fellowship of South Africa.

What happened? As fas as I know there were people at the conference who signed the Evangelical Witness. As the congress team didn’t include it, how should we have reacted? As table group leaders, or should we have put together our thoughts earlier – maybe on a web discussion board? I think we should at least still act now within the global conversation.

Yours, Dieter

Dieter, Tue 26 Oct, 06:10

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photo of iwan russell jones
Iwan Russell-Jones is a TV producer based in Cardiff.
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