China bans Pray.com app

Feb. 22 (UPI) -- After Beijing on Thursday removed and banned Pray.com from the Apple app store in mainland China, the company behind the digital platform for Christian faith-based content said it will look for alternatives to expanding the app's global reach.

The move is in line with China's strict regulatory policies governing Internet publishing and information sharing in the highly restrictive country.

Removing access to the app -- which features faith-inspired content, prayer and spiritual community engagement -- significantly affects Pray.com's mission of spreading faith-based messages globally, the app's creators said.

China's action also means its citizens will no longer be able to access National Day of Prayer activities, one of Pray.com's most high-profile events, which has featured U.S. presidents, other prominent politicians, and popular Christian musicians.

It has drawn audiences as large as 300 million people, according to Pray.com's website.

Company officials say the event has been a pivotal moment for people around the world to be able to join in collective prayer and worship with who they say are the most influential Christians in the United States.

"In response to these limitations, our team is exploring alternative avenues to deliver our content and services to people in mainland China," said Steve Gatena, founder and CEO of Pray.com. "As we work on a solution, I want to personally extend an invitation to President Xi Jinping to join us for this year's National Day of Prayer event in Washington, D.C."

The move is a shift in previous Chinese policy, which allowed the app to be available in the Communist nation.

"Since starting Pray.com we've grown accustomed to positive relations with China. President Xi has allowed for the printing of nearly 150 million Bibles per year," said Pray.com co-founder Michael Lynn.

"We are committed to overcoming these barriers to ensure that our global community remains connected and supported, especially during significant spiritual observances such as the National Day of Prayer," said Matthew Potter, co-founder of Pray.com.

The company said that, while it remains committed to improved relations with China and re-establishing the app online while aligning with regulatory requirements in the country, Pray.com will continue to find ways to maintain its core mission to grow faith and cultivate community worldwide.