United Methodists announce release of all three missionaries from Republic of the Philippines

July 12, 2018

Submitted by Dan Curran
UM Global Ministrie

Calling it a day of rejoicing with deep gratitude, leaders of United Methodist Global Ministries today announced that Miracle Osman of Malawi has left the Philippines and reunited with her family in Blantyre, Malawi. Osman, along with Tawanda Chandiwana of Mutare, Zimbabwe, and Adam Shaw of Brunswick, Ohio, had been subjected to false accusations and actions by the Republic of the Philippines that resulted in their exit from the country being delayed by months. Chandiwana was detained by the government for eight weeks and spent several in confinement at the Bicutan Detention Camp in Manila. 

"The release of Adam, Tawanda and Miracle could not have happened without the widespread support of the members of The United Methodist Church, the general public and the more than 18,530 people from over 110 countries who signed our online petition calling on the government to let them leave," said Thomas Kemper, top staff executive of United Methodist Global Ministries, the worldwide mission agency of the denomination with 12.5 million members in the U.S., Africa, Europe and the Philippines. “It is a demonstration of the global connection of our faith, the power of prayer and what can happen when we all join together as one to work toward a common goal.”

“I thank the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church for issuing their statement in June that called on the government of the Philippines to expedite the release of our missionaries,” continued Kemper. “Their action, along with the efforts in the Philippines by the regional central United Methodist conference, the National Council of Churches of the Philippines, the bishops of The United Methodist Church and our Philippines-based attorneys, helped make this moment possible.” 

“We are grateful for unity in our objectives. May the grace of God and the love of Jesus Christ always bind us together in the causes of justice and compassion,” said Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, president of the Council of Bishops, in a statement issued today. 

Kemper, who traveled to Manila and met with each of the three missionaries while there, noted their resolve. "Their determination and resiliency in light of what had happened was really something to admire,” Kemper said. “They have the spiritual depth and personality to be in missionary service in the Philippines or any other country in the world.

“United Methodist missionaries are sent to take the gospel of Jesus Christ into all the world, and that includes standing up for life where it has been threatened,” continued Kemper. “We will not stop sending missionaries to everywhere in the world because that is our calling as United Methodists. And, therefore, our rejoicing is mixed with great regret that these missionaries had to leave the Philippines and their place of ministry.” 

Chandiwana and Osman are Global Mission Fellows. These missionaries are young adults, ages 20 to 30, from all over the world. They are sent by The United Methodist Church to serve for 20 months in works of justice and mercy through participation in such ministries as peacebuilding, creation care, English teaching, human rights advocacy and social work. Many Filipino young adults are part of this program, serving in such places as Japan, South Africa, Ireland, Barbados or Uruguay. 

Shaw is a former Global Mission Fellow who served in the Philippines as a global missionary with The United Methodist Church. 

All three were detained at police checkpoints in February while participating in an international, ecumenical fact-finding investigation of alleged human rights violations in the southern Philippines area around General Santos City. The area is under martial law in response to disputed reports of terrorist activities. 

Later, Shaw encountered numerous delays, including being informed that an order to leave the country was imminent but repeatedly not served. He left the country on July 4, 2018.

Tawanda Chandiwana was taken into custody on May 9, while attending a training seminar at the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute in Davao City. He was charged with overstaying his visa, though he had initiated the process of having a missionary visa changed to a tourist status since he was nearing the end of his 20-month missionary term. The charge was expanded when he was found to be on a watchlist of suspected subversives. He denied any wrongdoing and faulted a delay in filing visa paperwork. He left the country on July 5, 2018. 

Miracle Osman’s passport was confiscated while she was applying to extend her tourist visa and waiting for her missionary visa to be approved. Seizure of her passport made it impossible for her to leave the country voluntarily. After weeks of delays, her passport, which is the property of the Republic of Malawi, was returned to her. She left the country on July 12, 2018.

The appeal by the Council of Bishops pointed out that “Global Ministries has enjoyed cordial relations with denominational and ecumenical organizations in the Philippines for many years. We have placed young adult missionaries in Mindanao since 2006. We hope to continue to work productively with our Filipino partners.”

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About the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church

The General Board of Global Ministries is the worldwide mission agency of The United Methodist Church. Founded in New York City in 1819, Global Ministries today supports more than 300 missionaries in 60 countries, including the United States. It has personnel, projects and partners in 136 countries. Learn more about Global Ministries by visitingUMCmission.org or follow facebook.com/GlobalMinistries and Twitter.com/UMCmission.