A NEWS RELEASE
From National Office of the ELCIC
July 7, 2003, Winnipeg -- National Bishop Raymond Schultz of the ELCIC wrote today to the Honorable Denis Coderre, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Government of Canada, outlining again the difficulties that are threatening the Lutheran World Federation Tenth Assembly due to the government's refusal to grant entry visas to 29 of the delegates.
I wish to begin by thanking you for the attention your Department has given to the plight of the delegates to the Tenth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) whose applications for entry visas have been denied. Four delegates have been granted visas upon reapplication, for which we are grateful. Your offices are making attempts to assist delegates with the reapplication process through phone calls and interpretive advice.
The fact remains, however, that the majority of these applicants (29) continue to be refused. Since they are mostly from developing countries with sometimes long distances to travel to visa offices, I wonder whether inexperience with such bureaucratic procedures and their personal poverty is the main problem.
The Lutheran World Federation intentionally seeks out a certain percentage of representatives from the southern world and among those, a certain percentage of women and youth. Many of these members have a hard time meeting the criteria required to assure the government of Canada that they sincerely intend to return to their homelands. Even pastors and bishops in some areas are paid only $20 a month. They are, however, committed to the mission of the Lutheran church where they live and will return in order to carry on the work they feel God has called them to do. In some cases, international travel is a completely new experience for them.
I have come under enormous pressure from the rest of the international Lutheran community over this matter. The delegation of the church of Denmark has put its plane tickets on hold and is threatening to boycott the event. Some African church leaders are also threatening to boycott the event out of solidarity with those who have been denied entry visas. I know that your Department is working on this matter, but the perception elsewhere is that little is being accomplished.
The president of the LWF, himself a bishop in Germany, is disappointed that our church cannot present your Department with a list of names to be approved simply upon the word of this church’s leadership. There is an expectation that you could issue a minister’s permit for the entire delegation.
Our church has been working hard for two years to host this event. It is an enormous challenge for us, but also a great opportunity for the leadership of the church around the world to see what Canada is like and how we function within it. This Assembly can be a real example of how people of the world can come together around positive and constructive cooperation for the healing of the world. I would hate for the poor and marginalized of the developing world to miss out on what will be the experience of a lifetime for them.
I appreciate the attention you have given this matter and hope that it will conclude with a satisfactory resolution.
Rev Raymond L. Schultz
Copy The Rt. Hon. Jean Chrétien
The Hon. Bill Graham
The Hon. Pierre Pettigrew
Premier Gary Doer
Mayor Glen Murray
Individuals are encouraged to contact the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and their own Member of Parliament.