Meghalaya Christians upset as Baptist leaders visa rejected

Baptist World Alliance Chief, Reverend Paul Msiza. Image credit: WS Chronicle

–TMC Desk

Shillong, Feb 8: Christians in poll-bound Meghalaya are upset with the ruling BJP-led NDA government after it rejected the visa application of the Baptist World Alliance Chief, Reverend Paul Msiza, to attend the 150 years of Christianity in Garo Hills region.

Lone National People’s Party Lok Sabha member, Conrad K. Sangma on Wednesday wrote to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj seeking her intervention into the Visa requirement of the Baptist preacher to attend the sesquicentenary celebrations of Christianity.

The Garo Baptist Convention is celebrating 150 years of Christianity at Rajasimla in Meghalaya’s East Garo Hills fromAFebruary 8-11. The Baptist Church set foot in Garo Hills at Rajasimla in 1867.

“The Christians communities, especially from Baptist community in Garo Hills are very upset with the central government for rejecting the visa of the Baptist World Alliance Chief, Paul Msiza to attend a four-day celebration of 150 years of Christianity in Garo Hills region,” Vice President of Asia Pacific Baptist Federation, Bijoy Sangma told IANS.

He said that the Visa application of Msiza was rejected by the Consulate General of India in Johannesburg, South Africa on Wednesday.

“It was shocking to get the news of rejection of the Visa by the Indian Consulate. We are extremely disappointed that we are going to miss the Global head of the Baptist Christian community on this historic occasion. The BWA President for us is the Pastoral head of the Baptists Community worldwide like His Holiness the Pope of the Catholic community” the Baptist leader said.

Upon hearing of the delay in issuance of Visa by the Indian Consulate in Johannesburg, Bijoy said some of enthusiastic faithful and social workers followed up the matter two days back with few top Indian politicians both in Centre and State including Member of Parliament Conrad K. Sangma for their intervention, but it did not yield any result.

“This is not the only case; many of our foreign friends have been denied visa in the last three years despite the fact that they have been coming here on earlier occasions,” of Garo Baptist Convention General Secretary, Reverend Janang R Sangma, said.

“They (NDA government) should realise this is a celebration, not a mission programme and has nothing to do with conversion. Visa for such religious functions should not be denied,” Janang said.

The BJP which is trying to unseat the ruling Congress party from power in Christian-dominated state of Meghalaya on February 27 assembly elections, have refused to comment on the matter.

“I have no idea. I cannot comment since this matter is to be look by the ministry of external affairs,” State’s BJP President, Shibun Lyngdoh told IANS.

The Baptist World Alliance is a worldwide alliance of Baptist churches and organizations, formed in 1905 in London during the first Baptist World Congress. The Baptist World Alliance maintains ecumenical relations with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. It also holds special consultative status with the United Nations.


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