Immigration authorities have refused to grant UK visas to three archbishops from Syria and Iraq who had been invited to a church event.
Archbishop Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf of Mosul, Archbishop of St Matthew’s Timothius Mousa Shamani and Archbishop Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh of Homs and Hama had been due to travel to Britain for the consecration of the UK’s first Syriac Orthodox cathedral.
Lord Alton of Liverpool told the Catholic Herald: “When the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch told me that these two bishops had been refused visas to come to the UK for the consecration of the new Syrian Orthodox cathedral I greeted it with incredulity and disbelief. It’s a decision that brings shame on our country.”
The churchmen were turned down for visas on the grounds they might not leave the UK at the end of the visa period and because they did not have enough money to support themselves during their stay.
The Iraqi bishops come from an area of the country where Christians have been persecuted and murdered for their beliefs by radical Islamists.
Lord Alton added: “It adds insult to injury that the UK would refuse admission to men who pose no threat and whose community has suffered so much – especially when we still fail to bring to justice Jihadists who have committed genocide.”
It follows a similar refusal to grant visas to Indian churchmen who had been invited to Scotland for a twinning initiative in Glasgow. That issue was raised at Prime Minister’s Questions by SNP MP Kirsten Oswald, who said: “Will the Prime Minister tell the Church why its visitors are not welcome and what messages she thinks it sends to our faith communities?”
Prime Minister Theresa May has asked the Home Secretary to look into the case.