United Methodist Bishops ask Philippines government to release UMC missionaries
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church today issued the following statement pertaining to three United Methodist missionaries who have been prevented from leaving the Republic of the Philippines by the country’s government. The statement was signed by COB President Bishop Kenneth H. Carter and Global Ministries General Secretary Thomas Kemper.
The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church joins our colleague bishops in the Philippines in appealing to the government of the Republic of the Philippines for assistance and cooperation in the immediate release of three of our missionaries from the country.
The three young adults face differing situations with the Philippines’ Bureau of Immigration, and our prayer is that all three be granted permission to leave the country immediately.
Tawanda Chandiwana, a citizen of Zimbabwe, was arrested and detained on May 8 in Davao City, and transferred to the BIWF Bicutan detention center, Taguig City Manila, on June 4. He was initially charged with overstaying his missionary visa, although he was attempting to change his status to a tourist visa since he was nearing the end of his mission service in the Philippines; the charge was expanded when his name was found on a “watchlist” of alleged subversives. He denies any wrongdoing and faults a delay in filing visa paperwork.
Miracle Osman, a citizen of Malawi, was in the process of renewing her missionary visa when her passport was confiscated by government officials. The lack of a passport makes it impossible for her to voluntarily leave the country. She has requested a return of her passport, which is the property of the Republic of Malawi.
Adam Shaw, a citizen of the United States, has been informed that an order to leave is imminent but it has not been served.
Chandiwana and Osman are part of the Global Mission Fellows program of our mission agency, the General Board of Global Ministries. Global Mission Fellows are young adults from around the world who give 20 months of mission service in countries different from their own. The program’s placements are coordinated with the church in the host country, in this case The United Methodist Church in the Philippines, which is an organic part of our international denomination, represented by three episcopal areas, Manila, Davao and Baguio.
Overtures by United Methodist leaders in the Philippines for the release of Chandiwana and resolution of the other visa issues have been unsuccessful.
All three missionaries, assigned to ministries in Davao City, took part in an international fact-finding investigation of human rights concerns in General Santos Province last February and apparently came under government surveillance at that time.
We are convinced that our missionaries pose no threat to the peace and tranquility of the Philippines. Our request is that Chandiwana be released from detention, granted an exit visa, and be allowed to leave the country as expeditiously as possible. We ask that Osman’s passport be returned and she be granted an exit visa, and that Shaw be allowed to depart safely.
Global Ministries has enjoyed cordial relations with denominational and ecumenical organizations in the Philippines for many years. We have placed young adult missionaries in Mindanao since 2006. We hope to continue to work productively with Filipino partners.
We call on United Methodists worldwide to observe daily prayer beginning at noon on June 27 for the missionaries’ safety and for government permission to return to their homes. We suggest the use of the following or a similar prayer each day until Tawanda, Miracle and Adam are allowed to leave the Philippines.
“God of grace and peace be with our missionaries. Keep them free from harm. Bring them home. Lord, hear our prayer. Amen.”