News Archives

Visa problems hinder travel to student event

6/4/2003 News media contact: Kathy Gilbert · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.

NOTE: This report may be used as a sidebar to UMNS story #309.

By Pamela Crosby*

READING, Pa. (UMNS) - Young people traveled from around the world to attend the United Methodist Church's annual Student Forum, but international involvement was still low because of travel restrictions.

Brazil, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Philippines, Trinidad, Tobago, Zimbabwe and 55 of the 64 U.S. annual (regional) conferences were represented on the campus of United Methodist-related Albright College for the 2003 Student Forum. The United Methodist Student Movement held the event May 22-25.

However, 12 international student delegates from Africa University, a United Methodist-related school in Mutare, Zimbabwe, were denied visas. Attendance by international student delegates was low at this year's forum because of increased restrictions on travel worldwide.

The news was disappointing to forum planners, who have seen the number of international delegates increase in preceding years.

Sungano Ziswa, a Zimbabwean student attending Delaware Technical and Community College, said news of the visa denials shocked him.

"It now means that I can't go home," he said. "The political situation in Zimbabwe is not too good, and students not being given visas means that basically visas aren't being offered that easily or that readily."

If he were to go home and needed a visa to return to the United States and finish his education, chances of that happening are slim, Ziswa said. "It's an inconvenience to students now. There's a lot of potential in Zimbabwe. But now people aren't going there from here, and people aren't coming here from there. The political situation has affected both sides."

LaLaine Salting, a diaconal minister from Nueva Ecija, Philippines, studying education at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., emphasized the importance of the event. "As a young adult, Student Forum shows me how youth are given the chance to have a voice in the church and even at General Conference. It is like that in the Philippines as well."

The Bible studies and workshops added to her experience and will help when she returns home to teach, she said. Attending her second Student Forum, she said international students were accepted and welcomed.

"The Road Less Traveled" was the theme for the event, which is the only annual national gathering of young people in the United Methodist Church.
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*Crosby is assistant editor and writer for the Office of Interpretation at the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, Nashville.

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