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Despite strict statements made by the Chinese government that it will not tolerate evangelism during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, many Christian athletes are planning to share the roles God has played in their lives.
Steve McConkey, president of 4 Winds Christian Athletics in Madison, Wis., has been in track and field ministries since 1981. He said China does not have the right to censor faith at the Olympic Games.
“As long as it is done in a peaceful way, and they proclaim the true Jesus Christ, no person should ever take it away, regardless of who they are, government or whatever,” he told WND.
Section 51 of the Olympic Charter states, ” … no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”
McConkey said he spoke with the United States Olympic committee, and he asked if the athletes will be required to change their responses during press interviews to omit Christ from their statements.
“They told me no,” he said. “In other words, they can witness.”
Since summer 2006, 4 Winds has gathered Christian testimonies from candidates for the Olympic Games and has allowed them to be indirectly distributed to a church that is not sanctioned by the Chinese government, called the underground church. Its membership is estimated to be as large as 100 million to 130 million people.
McConkey said each testimony tells how the athlete came to Christ and what the Lord is doing in their life. The organization does not pay athletes and screens each person carefully to be sure they are positive Christian examples.
“We really make sure they serve the Lord,” he said. “We don’t promote people who are not grounded in their faith. They have to be growing. They can’t be living with their girlfriends. They can’t be out drinking. They can’t be doing performance-enhancing drugs. We really screen them pretty heavily.”
Athletes must train at least four to five hours every day. McConkey said they can’t be out on an aggressive evangelistic circuit, and 4 Winds is encouraging athletes to concentrate on their performances at the Olympics. However, the organization encourages them to share their faith in post-game media interviews.
“These athletes will testify, win or lose, after gold, silver, bronze medals or lost performances,” he said. “They will give glory like they do in all the championships each year. They’re going to be witnessing for Christ.”