The United Methodist Church is urging the Philippine government to release a missionary placed in a detention center as he was trying to leave the Pacific island nation.
In May, Tawanda Chandiwana, a UMC missionary originally from Zimbabwe, was arrested by authorities under the claims of visa issues and allegedly being involved in subversive activities.
In a statement released Tuesday, the UMC Council of Bishops have demanded that the Philippine government release Chandiwana, and intervene to allow two other missionaries, Adam Shaw of Brunswick, Ohio, and Miracle Osman of Blantyre, Malawi, to leave the country.
"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," stated the Council of Bishops.
"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."
Joining the UMC in its call for the three missionaries to be allowed to leave the country is the World Council of Churches, which also expressed concern about the overall human rights climate in the Philippines.
"The WCC has expressed alarm and outrage at the worsening human rights situation and increasing violence in the Philippines," stated WCC General Secretary the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit.
"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."
The controversy over the UMC missionaries' treatment comes at a time when Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has attacked religious groups, especially the Roman Catholic Church, for being critical of some of his domestic policies.
Recently, Duterte garnered international headlines for a speech he made at the opening of the 2018 National ICT Summit in Davao City where he called God "stupid."
"This son of a whore must really be stupid. You created some — something perfect and then you think of an event that would tempt and destroy the quality of your work," said Duterte, as translated by Manila Standard on Sunday.
Some have claimed that Duterte's rhetoric against the church could be fueling violence, such as recent murders of priests.
For his part, Duterte has denied these accusations and has sought to reach out to the Catholic Church following his inflammatory religious comments.
"The president thought to open the dialogue because there is only one society served by both the government and the church," explained a spokesman to a CNN affiliate.
Source : Christianpost