By CAROLINE WHEELER, EXCLUSIVE
December 4, 2016
THREE archbishops from war-torn Iraq and Syria have been refused permission to enter the UK despite being invited to London to meet Prince Charles.
The Christians, including the Archbishop of Mosul, were told there was “no room at the inn” by the Home Office when they applied for visas to attend the consecration of the UK’s first Syriac Orthodox Cathedral.
Last night the decision was described as “unbelievable” by critics who pointed out that extreme Islamic leaders had been allowed visas.
The Prince of Wales addressed the congregation at St Thomas Cathedral in London last week, while both the Queen and the Prime Minister sent personal messages of congratulations.
Prince Charles, who has previously described the persecution of the Christians in the Middle East as a “tragedy”, used his address to highlight the suffering of Syrian Christians.
But the welcome did not extend to Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf, the Archbishop of Mosul, nor to Timothius Mousa Shamani, the Archbishop of St Matthew’s, which covers the Nineveh valley in northern Iraq, who were refused UK visas to attend the event on November 24.
The UK also refused to grant a visa to Archbishop Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh, the Archbishop of Homs and Hama in Syria.
In his case the British embassy told him that it would not waiver from its policy of not granting visas to anyone in Syria.
The men were also told they were denied entry because they did not have enough money to support themselves and they might not leave the UK.
Last night the leader of the UK’s Syriac Orthodox Christians Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dawod condemned the decision.
“That is why we cannot understand why Britain is treating Christians in this way?”
Dr Martin Parsons, head of research at the Barnabas Fund, an aid agency which has helped more than 8,000 Christians escape persecution at the hands of IS, said: “It’s unbelievable that these persecuted Christians who come from the cradle of Christianity are being told there is no room at the inn, when the UK is offering a welcome to Islamists who persecute Christians.”
The Home Office recently issued guidance stating that there should be a presumption that senior members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood should be granted asylum in the UK – despite the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood has repeatedly incited violence against Egyptian Christians.
Dr Parsons also claims that visas were granted in July to two Pakistani Islamic leaders who have called for the killing of Christians accused of blasphemy.
He said: “There is a serious systemic problem when Islamist leaders who advocate persecution of Christians are given the green light telling them that their applications for UK visas will be looked on favourably, while visas for short pastoral visits to the UK are denied to Christian leaders whose churches are facing genocide.
“That is an urgent issue that Home Office ministers need to grasp and correct.”
Last night a Home Office spokesman said: “All visa applications are considered on their individual merits and applicants must provide evidence to show they meet the requirements of the immigration rules.”
Last night International Development Minister Rory Stewart was in Iraq where he announced a raft of aid projects, including help for the 80,000 Iraqis displaced from Mosul.