A NEWS RELEASE
From National Office of the ELCIC
Winnipeg, July 8, 2003 (ELCIC) -- National Bishop Raymond Schultz of the ELCIC wrote yesterday 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.
In his letter, Bishop Schultz thanked the minister for the attention his Department has given to the plight of the delegates whose applications for entry visas have been denied, but pointed out that the majority of these applicants (29) continue to be refused.
Bishop Schultz stressed that the applicants are mostly from developing countries with sometimes long distances to travel to visa offices and wondered 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. 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.
Bishop Schultz has 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. The president of the LWF, himself a bishop in Germany, is disappointed that our church cannot present the Department of Citizenship and Immigration with a list of names to be approved simply upon the word of this church’s leadership.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) has been working hard for two years to host this event. It is an enormous challenge, but also a great opportunity for the leadership of the church around the world to see what Canada is like and how the church functions 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." wrote Bishop Shultz. "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."
The ELCIC is encouraging its people to contact their member of parliament and the Minister, Mr. Coderre. A copy of Bishop Schultz's letter has also been shared with ecumenical partners, including the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Anglican Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada.