The Danish government is tightening immigration laws and the conditions for issuing residence permits (visas) to foreign pastors, missionaries, and other religious workers. Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has implied that in the past residence permits have been able to be obtained too easily.
Among other requirements, the government is now demanding that pastors, missionaries, and other religious workers desiring to establish legal residence in Denmark be appropriately educated, be financially self-sufficient, have more than passing familiarity with the Danish language and culture, and respect Denmark's position on human rights, in particular the right of an individual to change religions. Given world conditions at the present time, it is likely that national security concerns are in large part fueling the new residence requirements.
Muslim leaders believe the new requirements are discriminatory, designed to limit the activities of imams already in the country and prevent the entry of others. Christian leaders believe that the all-encompassing law may have a negative effect on the residence of international pastors and missionaries, including those called to ministry by local congregations. As we understand it, the law will require an applicant to be recommended by an existing, legally recognized Danish denomination.
At the present time there altogether nearly 700 foreign pastors, missionaries, or religious workers of all sorts in the country (including evangelical pastors and missionaries, Muslim imams, and Mormon missionaries). Some evangelicals have been waiting several years to obtain approval of their residence permit applications, among them Lee Hanson, Tony Acheampong, and Jonas Kouassi-Zessia. In a recent issue, the weekly newsletter of the Danish Baptist Union indicated that residence permits for the three pastors are at long last expected to be approved (www.baptistkirken.dk/nyheder/Nyhedsbreve/nyeste.htm).
PRAY that the new requirements for residence permits will not adversely affect the opportunities for ministry on the part of evangelical pastors and missionaries approved the various free church denominations.
PRAY for Pastor Lee Hanson's ministry through Bethel Baptist Church in Aalborg. Lee, originally from the USA, speaks fluent Danish and received his seminary education in Denmark. He has an significant work with international students at Aalborg University. (www.bethelkirken.dk)
PRAY for Pastor Tony Acheampong's ministry with the International City Baptist Church in Taastrup. This church is oriented to English-speaking Africans and other internationals residing in Denmark. (www.tvaerkulturelt-center.dk/)
PRAY for Pastor Jonas Kouassi-Zessia of Copenhagen's Eglise Protestante Baptiste. Pastor Jonas is a former Ivory Coast diplomat. The church is oriented toward French-speaking Africans now working or studying in Denmark. (www.tvaerkulturelt-center.dk/)