The Indian consulate in Johannesburg, South Africa, has rejected the visa application of the president of the Baptist World Alliance and the religious head of the Baptist World Community, Reverend Paul Msiza, who was scheduled to attend a four day commemoration of 150 years of the Garo Baptist Church in Meghalaya.

An official press release from the Baptist organization said Msiza, the Pope equivalent of the Baptists, had applied for visa on January 29, and he was informed that the embassy denied his visa application only on Wednesday evening, February 8.

The visa rejection has triggered an outcry amongst the Christian community in Garo hills of Meghalaya, where the event is being held from 8 to 11 February.

The Minister of Union Tourism K J Alphons told to the press that the government has asked the Indian consulate in South Africa to reconsider the visa application.

“The Minister of External Affairs has asked the high commission at Johannesburg to reconsider the visa application of Paul Msiza,” Alphons told to the press.

He also said the European Schengen and the United States reject about 50 percent of visa applications of highly-qualified people from across the world.

On the other side Vincent Pala, MP and working president of the Congress party in the state, issued a statement on the visa rejection, alleging that the incident “exposes the mindset of the present dispensation”. He also alleged that this was not an isolated case, but rather a trend.

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

The Baptist Church set foot in Garo Hills at Rajasimla in 1867 and this year it celebrates its 150th anniversary. According to the Church census, the Garo Baptist Convention, a Christian denomination in Meghalaya, counted over 2.6 hundred thousand baptized adults in 2013.

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