Baptist World Alliance
Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
July 30, 2010
For Immediate Release
U.S. denies visas to
about 1,000 hoping to attend World Congress
by Robert Dilday
|Honolulu (BWA) --
As many as 1,000 people who had registered for the Baptist World Alliance's Congress
this year were unable to attend because they were denied visas by the US
government, leaders of the global Baptist organization said July 28.|
Security-conscious Americans are
increasingly prohibiting entry to foreign nationals attending religious
conferences and that is making it difficult for global Baptist meetings to be
held in the United States, said the leaders at a press conference at the
beginning of the 20th Baptist World Congress.
"People want to
come to the United States. It's a wonderful place," said Neville Callam,
general secretary of the Falls Church, Va.-based BWA. "But it's difficult when
general secretaries and presidents [of national Baptist conventions and unions]
have saved to come to a conference and they are denied a visa. And there's
nothing anyone can do.
states have to protect themselves," Callam added. "We must take that into
account. But it would be very unfortunate if the U.S. had to be eliminated from
the list of places to hold meetings."
Countries in Africa
and Asia were the hardest hit by the visa denials, said Emmett Dunn, the BWA's
meetings and conferences director. All 87 delegates from Angola were denied
visas, Dunn said, as was 40 percent of Nigeria's 246-member delegation. Only
two of Sierra Leone's 27 registered delegates were granted visas and only 24
percent of the more than 100 registrants from Bangladesh received permission to
enter the U.S. Other hard hit countries were Ghana, Liberia and India.
"We live in a
post 9-11 world," said Dunn, acknowledging heightened security concerns.
While a fragile economy and Hawaii's
distance from centers of Baptist population both contributed to a smaller
attendance, visa denials unquestionably played a role and left many potential
travelers frustrated - as many expressed in emails sent to BWA headquarters in
"We paid our
registration fees, we paid also our travel ticket, we have done our
reservations ... really we lost more money, we're very sorry," wrote one of the
Angolans whose visa was denied.
all the required documents ... several of us were rejected today for no specific
reason," wrote a delegate from Sierra Leone.
Callam said other
global Christian bodies - including the worldwide organizations of Seventh-day
Adventists and the Reformed churches - have been impacted by American visa
denials, sparking wide-ranging debate about the issue.
Robert Dilday is managing editor of Virginia Baptists'