The World Council of Churches (WCC) joined the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church (UMC) as well as United Methodist bishops in the Philippines in appealing to the government of the Philippines for assistance and cooperation in extracting three United Methodist mission personnel from the country.
The three young UMC mission personnel wish to be allowed to return home after exhausting all legal and diplomatic efforts.
The three face differing situations with the Bureau of Immigration in the Philippines. Tawanda Chandiwana, a citizen of Zimbabwe who was detained on 8 May in Davao City, was transferred to a detention center on 4 June. He was initially charged with overstaying his missionary visa, although he was in the process of changing his status to a tourist visa as he neared the end of his mission service in the Philippines. This charge was compounded as a result of his name being found on a “watchlist”.
Miracle Osmond, a citizen of Malawi whose passport was confiscated while in the process of renewing her missionary visa, also appears to be included on a watchlist.
Adam Shaw, a citizen of the United States, has been ordered to leave and placed on a watchlist but has been unable to obtain an exit clearance certificate.
Chandiwana and Osmond are part of the Global Mission Fellows program of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries. Global Mission Fellows are young adults from around the world who give two years to mission service in other countries. The program’s placements are coordinated with the partner church in the host country, in this case the United Methodist Church in the Philippines.
Shaw is a young adult Global Missionary who earlier was a Global Mission Fellow in the Philippines.
All three mission personnel, assigned to ministries in Davao City, took part in an international human rights fact-finding investigation in General Santos Province last February and apparently came under government surveillance at that time.
WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit added his voice to the calls for release of the mission personnel. “The WCC has expressed alarm and outrage at the worsening human rights situation and increasing violence in the Philippines,” he said. “We decry the illegal arrests, extrajudicial killings, large-scale forcible displacement of Indigenous Peoples, and damage to schools since martial law was imposed in May 2017.”
A WCC Central Committee statement issued last week urges the government of the Philippines to end the culture of impunity, order the investigation of all killings, drop the Department of Justice’s petition to declare activists as terrorists, and lift martial law in Mindinao.