WASHINGTON, D.C. (BP)–Citing concerns about SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in Hong Kong, the Baptist World Alliance has postponed its 14th Baptist Youth World Conference from July of this year to August 2004.
The conference had been scheduled for July 16-20 at the Hong Kong Convention Center and is now scheduled for Aug. 4-8, 2004.
“We had hoped that this would not be necessary,” said Emmett Dunn, director of the Baptist World Alliance youth department, “but the BWA must act responsibly to protect the thousands of young people we expected in Hong Kong.” He said the BWA must “allay the fears of many people who were concerned that the disease would not be under control by July.”
Of the rescheduled August 2004 conference in Hong Kong, Dunn said, “Everything we had planned for this [July’s] meeting will be there next year, and even more. We know that God works everything for good to those who trust Him and we expect He has even greater plans for the conference next year.”
Dunn said hotels, travel agents and the convention center have promised to hold current rates at their present levels.
To those who have registered for the conference, the BWA issued guidelines stating:
“If you have already paid your registration fees to the BWA or to one of the official BWA travel agents, the BWA asks that you consider leaving your deposits to guarantee your place. However, if you desire, the BWA will refund your registration fees. Your travel agent will advise you on other payments already made. If you have booked directly with the airlines and other agents, please check with them.”
Leaders of the Hong Kong Baptist Convention voiced disappointment at the turn of events in their country that led to the BWA conference’s postponement, but said they understand and approve the change. General Secretary Chu Wood-Ping and Eddie Ho, chairman of the local arrangements committee, promised to work hard to make next year’s meeting a success.
“We know that it is a painful decision to postpone the youth conference until next year,” they said in a joint statement, “but it is also a realistic and decisive response to the current situation. Hong Kong Baptists and the BWA will work hand in hand to tackle these problems.”
BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz asked Baptists to begin building support for the 2004 conference. “All of our plans for this conference will be fulfilled,” Lotz said, “and we expect a dynamic program and thousands of people from around the world to attend. We urge you to pray for the leaders of the youth department and for Hong Kong Baptists who have invested a tremendous amount of time, money, prayer and planning.”