India rejects visa for Baptist world Alliance President Paul Msiza

Friday, February
Tura: The rejection of the visa application of the president of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), Paul Msiza, by the Indian consulate in South Africa has triggered an uproar in the Christian community in Garo hills of poll-bound Meghalaya.

The issue has taken a political colour with social media terming it "anti-Christian" attitude of the BJP-led government at the Centre.

Chief minister Mukul Sangma condemned the incident and termed it "an agenda of the central government against the Christian community".

Msiza, who is also the religious head of the Baptist World Community, was scheduled to visit Rajasimla in North Garo Hills to witness the 150th celebrations of the Garo Baptist Convention from Thursday.#

An official release from the Baptist organisation said he had applied for visa on January 29, but came to know about the rejection on Wednesday evening.

"It was shocking to get the news. We are extremely disappointed that we are going to miss the global head of the Baptist Christian community. Msiza is the pastoral head of the Baptist community worldwide," said a leader.

The social media post of Mukul reads: "Where are the voices of dissent within the NDA allies? It is time we seek answers from those in power. I extend full support to my people in Garo hills. It is unfortunate that a spiritual leader of his stature cannot attend the celebrations.I demand the matter be resolved at the earliest."
Tura MP Conrad K. Sangma has written to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj seeking her intervention.

Union tourism minister K.J. Alphons clarified that Msiza's visa application had already been reopened to facilitate his arrival in India.

Saying there was a mistake in the visa application, Alphons added: "We took up the matter with Sushma ji who, in turn, personally called the Indian consulate in South Africa to reopen the application at the earliest."

Congress leaders reacted strongly against the incident. MP Vincent Pala said this is not the first instance of denial of visa to missionaries like Msiza to come to India. "I have spoken to officials in the ministry of external affairs. I was told that the ministry has taken up the matter with the Indian ambassador in South Africa," Pala said.

Asked if the issue will be a stick to beat the BJP with in poll-bound Meghalaya, Pala said: "The Congress is not using this issue to get political mileage. People of India themselves are not happy with this kind of action. They know that the BJP is playing the religion card."

AICC media coordinator Bobbeeta Sharma said: "It exposes the mindset of the present dispensation - the BJP and their masters in Nagpur. The saffron brigade will stop at nothing to pursue their Hindutva agenda."

"RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat ridiculed St Teresa and said she had an 'ulterior' motive of converting people to Christianity. We all know what she stood for. She was the embodiment of compassion for the poor. The denial of visa to Msiza reflects the same mindset which leads to attacks on churches. It is the same mindset that breeds intolerance and attacks people's eating habits and culture besides the spirit and ethos of the Indian Constitution.