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Philippines pressured to release missionaries

MANILA (UCAN): “We are saddened by the fact that in spite of official requests for and on behalf of our three young people, they are still unable to leave the Philippines,” a July 2 statement from the United Methodist Church read as Catholic and Protestant Church groups from around the world are called on the Philippine government to release a detained Protestant missionary and allow two others return to their home countries. One has been in detention for seven weeks.
 
A recently launched online petition for the release of Zimbabwe national, Tawanda Chandiwana, from immigration detention and for Malawi citizen, Miracle Osman, and American, Adam Shaw, to leave the country garnered some 11,000 signatures as of early July. 
 
The Methodist General Board of Global Ministries sent the three to work as missionaries in Mindanao in the southern Philippines.
 
“We reiterate our appeal to the Philippine government to release Chandiwana, return the passport of Osman and (together) with Shaw, let all of them go back to their respective countries,” the statement said.
 
It said the three missionaries “don’t want to stay longer than their visas allow them to” in the Philippines. “And they are willing to leave the country peacefully.” 
 
Australian missionary, Sister Patricia Fox, was earlier ordered to leave the country by the president, Rodrigo Duterte, also called on the president to allow the three missionaries to leave the country.
 
Sister Fox made the call July 2 as she submitted on her own petition at the Immigration Bureau to be allowed to remain in the Philippines as a missionary.
 
She was detained by immigration officials in April for alleged involvement in partisan political activities when she joined a “fact-finding mission looking into alleged human rights abuses in the southern Philippines (Sunday Examiner, April 29).
 
“There can only be a meaningful dialogue with the Churches if the three missionaries are allowed to go home and harassment of missionaries like me are stopped,” Sister Fox said.
 
Philippine authorities imposed a travel ban on Chandiwana, Osman, and Shaw after they also joined an international fact-finding team in February looking into alleged human rights issues in the region. 
 
They were on a truck stopped by police at a checkpoint in South Cotabato province. Their passports and immigration cards were seized and they were detained, but they were later released. 
 
Tawanda was later arrested and detained on May 9 in Davao City and later transferred to an immigration detention centre in Manila. He was reported to be the subject of a “watchlist order.”
 
The ecumenical group, Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR), has spoken out against the “harsh and inhospitable treatment” of missionaries.
 
The group said in a statement that the foreign missionaries came to the Philippines “in response to a calling of God to missionary service with the people ... journeying with them toward their aspiration and dream of God’s promise of peace and justice.”
 
The PCPR said, “We remind President Duterte to stop attacking God, whom he does not see, and to stop attacking missionaries, most particularly those whose good works for the poor and marginalised are evident.”

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