Easier work permits for religious leaders

From next week it will be easier for churches, synagogues and mosques to appoint staff from outside Europe because of changes to the procedure for work permits for religious leaders.

Religious organisations will not, for example, first have to register vacancies with the Centre for Work and Income (CWI) or establish whether a suitable candidate is available in Europe.
According to the Volkskrant, the move by social affairs minister Piet Hein Donner was intended to make it easier for Christian churches to employ priests from abroad in the Netherlands but it has also opened the door to foreign imams.
The change in the regulations follows an initiative from Bas van der Vlies, leader of the fundamentalist Christian SGP party, says the paper. He told Donner that it was ‘crazy’ that the state interfered in the internal affairs of a church by turning down a work permit requested for a South African vicar in Eemdijk.
The Catholic church is also happy with the less stringent regulations. A spokesman told the Volkskrant that it expects around 10 foreign priests a year to find work in the Netherlands, mainly from South America and India.
And around 35% of Protestant churches face a shortage of vicars, the paper said.
Muslim organisations have welcomed the move, saying up to 40 mosques are without an imam at present, the paper reports. ‘A very good move. Moroccan mosques in particular are desperate for imams,’ El Boujoufi, chairman of the Muslim umbrella organisation, told the paper.
The appointment of foreign imams in the Netherlands is controversial. The former cabinet, also led by Christian Democrat Jan Peter Balkenende, stressed the importance of imams being integrated into Dutch community and introduced a special one-year integration programme for imams coming into the country.
Geer Wilders, leader of the anti immigration party PVV told the Volkskrant that the new regulations are incomprehensible: ‘For priests, fine. That is our dominant culture. But we already have enough imams.’

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