FIVE Anglican youth leaders from the diocese of Swaziland in Southern Africa, who have had their UK visa applications rejected by the Home Office (News, 8 July), were granted permission to travel to a pilgrimage in Scotland just 48 hours before its start.
The members of the diocesan Youth Council joined other representatives, aged 22-38, from the companion dioceses of Brechin, in Scotland, and the US Episcopal diocese of Iowa, in July, after the offices of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York intervened on their behalf.
The Companion Links Officer for the diocese of Brechin, Pat Millar, said that the applications had been rejected twice — at the cost of about £530 per application — because the group “did not appear to be financially secure”, and because the UK Immigration and Visa Office in Pretoria, South Africa, “did not seem convinced that they intended to return to Swaziland at the end of the visit”.
In a third attempt, the Church of England’s policy adviser for World Mission, Janice Price, contacted UK border officials in Pretoria to move the issue, and the chief of staff at Bishopthorpe, the residence of the Archbishop of York, the Revd Malcolm Macnaughton, wrote a letter, signed by Dr Sentamu, to the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, asking her to intervene.
The visas were approved on 13 July, as the group made their way to the airport. “It was certainly stressful, but prayer and perseverance prevailed,” Ms Millar said. The Bishop of Brechin, the Rt Revd Dr Nigel Peyton, expressed his gratitude to all parties for the “decisive” intervention “when things looked bleak”.
The ten-day pilgrimage involved visits to churches and community projects across the diocese, and daily worship.