Manila allows US missionary on watchlist to leave

Adam Thomas Shaw departs Philippines, two other Methodist missionaries remain after being accused of visa violations
Manila allows US missionary on watchlist to leave

Members of the United Methodist Church in the Philippines call for the release of detained missionary Tawanda Chandiwana and to let Adam Thomas Shaw and Miracle Osman to go home. The missionaries were barred from leaving the country over allegations of visa violations after they joined a 'fact-finding mission' in the southern Philippines. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

 

Philippine authorities allowed an American Protestant missionary who was earlier barred from leaving the country to depart for the United States on July 4.

Adam Thomas Shaw, a United Methodist Church missionary, left Manila about 8 a.m. local time after getting his passport back from immigration officials.

Methodist Bishop Ciriaco Francisco, who saw Shaw off, said immigration officials returned the missionary's passport at the airport.

"It went well and he finally boarded the plane to the United States," the bishop told ucanews.com. "We are grateful that the government acted on our call."

Various church groups earlier called on the Philippine government to let Shaw and Malawi citizen Miracle Osman go home.

The missionaries were barred from leaving the country after being accused of visa violations after they joined a "fact-finding mission" in the southern Philippines.

Authorities also detained Methodist missionary Tawanda Chandiwana, a Zimbabwe national.

Immigration bureau spokeswoman Dana Krizia Mengote Sandoval said Shaw first entered the country in 2011 and was engaged in missionary work without a visa until 2013.

The American was only granted a missionary visa in 2017 when he returned to the Philippines from the U.S.

Sandoval said Shaw, whose visa expired on April 26, was ordered to leave the country for engaging in missionary work without a visa, overstaying and for involvement in "leftist activities."

The immigration official also confirmed that Chandiwana was being detained on charges of overstaying and engaging in political activities.

"Upon inspection, it was confirmed that he is an overstaying alien as his missionary visa expired on April 6," said Sandoval.

"He also admitted to have been working in the country since October 2016 but only sought a visa in 2017." 

Chandiwana has since been included on the bureau’s blacklist for involvement in "leftist-organized activities."

Sandoval said the immigration bureau is waiting on Malawi missionary Osman, who is also barred from leaving the country, to submit "necessary requirements” for leaving.

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Bishop Francisco said Osman will soon leave the country after all required documents are completed.

"We are already working on it and hopefully the government will not impose additional requirements that will delay of her departure," said the Methodist prelate.

Sandoval denied allegations that the immigration bureau is launching a crackdown on foreign missionaries.

"We welcome and appreciate their presence as long as the visa is not abused for the purpose of joining partisan political activities," said Sandoval.

She said there are currently more than 500 lawful missionary visa holders. 

In April, the Bureau of Immigration drew criticism from church leaders and religious groups after the arrest and detention of Australian missionary nun Patricia Fox.

The nun's missionary visa was revoked for her alleged involvement in "partisan political activities."

Church groups viewed the arrest, detention and visa forfeitures of foreign missionaries as an attack on church people.

Catholic Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, head of the Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum, called these cases "deliberate acts of harassment committed by the government."

The prelate accused the government of "resorting to bureaucratic measures to coerce with threats foreign nationals supportive of the people’s aspiration for social justice."

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