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PRESS RELEASE NO. 11
Remembered at LWF Assembly
Denounces Visa Refusals by Canadian Government
WINNIPEG, Canada, 23 July
2003 - Red and blue scarves were draped over the backs of empty
chairs at the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Tenth Assembly last night in
silent tribute to people who should have been there but were not.
The scarves – red for
Asia, blue for Africa – symbolized participants at the LWF
Assembly who had not received visas to come to Canada for the event.
"As you pass by one
of these chairs, you will know you are passing by an absent sister
or brother," LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko told a
special plenary session of the Assembly.
participants, including 38 delegates and 14 others (including 12
youth) had failed to receive visas for entry to Canada. All affected
individuals were from Asia and Africa.
Over half of those
affected were from India, where 20 delegates and seven others had
either been denied visas or were still awaiting the outcome of their
Other affected countries
were Ethiopia (five delegates), Indonesia (three delegates),
Madagascar (two delegates and one journalist), Cameroon (one
delegate and two stewards), Bangladesh (one delegate and one
steward), Democratic Republic of Congo (one delegate and one
adviser), Senegal (two delegates), Liberia (one steward),
Philippines (one steward), Rwanda (one delegate), Sierra Leone (one
delegate) and South Africa (one delegate).
An emotional ELCIC
Raymond Schultz denounced the Canadian government’s denial of the
visas, noting that his parents had been welcomed into Canada as
children after fleeing Russia with their own parents decades
"profound disappointment and shame" at the
"insensitivity and inaction" of the federal government in
not responding to LWF pleas that the visas be granted.
and powers of globalization have created a world where capital moves
freely and people cannot," Schultz told the gathering.
But Evangelical Lutheran
Church of Jordan Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan reminded delegates the reason
for their presence at the Assembly was greater than any government’s
power to deny visas.
"Thank God the
communion of churches does not need a visa," Younan said.
"Our visa is the Lord Jesus Christ who gathered us in this
During the session, four
young people marched solemnly to the main stage at the Winnipeg
Convention Centre carrying four national flags of countries whose
delegations had been affected. The flags will remain on the stage
during the duration of the LWF Assembly July 21 to 31.
Bishop Jubil Raplan
Hutauruk of the Protestant Christian Batak Church in Indonesia sat
at a table next to three chairs bearing red scarves representing
three colleagues who traveled twice to Jakarta to apply in vain for
visas to Canada.
Hutauruk, who leads the
largest Lutheran church in Indonesia, suggested possible fear of
Islamic militant groups in southeast Asia may have influenced the
decision not to grant the visas.
"We come from the
southern part of the world – the so-called Third World. We see
that political and economic power play a great role in this
situation," Hutauruk said.
countries think that people who come from the south can make danger
for them if they come here to the northern part of the world."
But Hutauruk cautioned
against reacting with anger toward the visa issue, which has so far
overshadowed the LWF Assembly.
"I see it with a
Christian hope. Even if people can’t come here, in my faith they
are here in spirit," he said.
"I don’t like to
create violence against violence. It is not the aim of this
communion. Let us see how we can overcome violence with
Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is taking place
21-31 July 2003 in Winnipeg, Canada, under the theme "For the
Healing of the World." It is being hosted by the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).
There are around 820 men, women and youth participants in the Tenth
Assembly including 380 delegates from the
133 churches with full membership and three associate members. The Assembly is the highest
decision-making body of the LWF, and meets normally every six years.
Between Assemblies, the LWF is governed by its Council that meets
annually, and by its Executive Committee.
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