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BWA: Australian Baptists affirm January 2000 for world congress

WASHINGTON (BP)–Australian Baptists support the decision of the Baptist World Alliance not to postpone the 18th Baptist World Congress in early January 2000 because of possible Y2K computer problems, according to a report from the BWA.
Geoff Holland, editor of the Victorian Baptist Witness, said the Y2K fear that airplane computer systems will not handle the change from 1999 to 2000 is especially unfounded when it comes to Qantas, the official airline for the BWA congress, Jan. 5-9 in Melbourne.
Holland reported Qantas, “which has never killed a passenger in 79 years flying,” began work on the Y2K problem in 1995 and by the end of 1998 had converted all of its critical systems to Y2K compliance. It is now testing them to make sure the airline is completely ready for the transition, Holland said, noting other major airlines are similarly prepared.
Leon Norsworthy, head of the local arrangements committee for Australian Baptists and a former senior executive with the Civil Aviation Authority in Australia, agreed. He told Holland he has “checked with several major airlines and they have assured him they are prepared for the change of century.”
Norsworthy said, “Australia’s leaders are taking the issue very seriously and are employing strategies to remove the risk the ‘bug’ might pose to services, industry and commerce. Already systems — financial, tax and others — are working into 2000 without a hitch.”
Holland also quoted Pete Holzmann, global coordinator for the AD2000 Interactive Task Force who has “three decades of experience on mainframe computers, PCs and embedded systems.” Holzmann said while there will be minor inconveniences, “few of us will encounter a major problem.”
“Aircraft will continue to fly,” Holzmann said, and “while some slowdowns may be expected, especially in remote international areas, commercial flights will continue throughout the night of Dec. 31, 1999.”
Some breakdown of services will appear especially in poorer countries, “not as well prepared as Australia,” Holzmann said.
A recent report from the World Bank in The Washington Post provided similar information: 21 developing countries have taken remedial steps on the Y2K computer problem, 54 countries had made national policy decisions on the issue and 33 reported “high to medium awareness” of the problem but were taking no action. Sixty-two countries have requested grants to help them with solutions.
Yet Holzmann said he is sure “the power grids will not shut down, the financial markets will not crash and airplanes will continue to fly. God is still in command: the tides will rise and fall, the sun and moon will maintain their course and God’s gift to mankind of intelligence and creativity will once again allow us to cooperatively solve issues that surface in the early hours of Jan. 1, 2000.”
Denton Lotz, BWA general secretary, said, “We enthusiastically invite Baptists worldwide to come to Australia to celebrate the theme, ‘Jesus Christ Forever. Yes!’ It is in the strong belief in the eternal presence of Christ that we will enter a new millennium and call upon Baptists to be messengers of hope in a needy world.”
“If you are really concerned that four days will not be able to iron out any bugs which may arise,” Holland has more advice. “Come to Melbourne the week before and enjoy the cricket, our white sand beaches or the marvelous things about Melbourne which tourists love all year round.”
The BWA Internet site — www.bwanet.org — includes registration forms for the congress and other information. Other inquiries can be made to the BWA at 6733 Curran Street, McLean, VA 22101-6005; telephone, (703) 790-8980; fax, (703) 893-5160; or e-mail, [email protected].

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  • Wendy Ryan