Christian Persecution

Persecuted Middle East bishops banned from visiting UK

Why are suffering Syrian and Iraqi bishops banned from visiting the UK? They only wanted to attend the consecration of the country’s first Syriac Orthodox cathedral, dedicated to St Thomas. They might even have met the Prince of Wales for a cup of tea, but after that they’d have surely returned to serve their rapidly-diminishing flocks and lead them through their daily crucifixions, beheadings, enslavement, murder, rape… Surely the Sunday Express has got this story completely wrong. Bishops banned? Why on earth? Why would the Home Office not see fit to grant three brave Middle Eastern bishops a visa so they might attend the consecration of St Thomas’ Cathedral and visit some of their refugee brethren, and then perhaps pop along to Clarence House for a chat with the Prince of Wales? He cares about these things, doesn’t he? Good grief, he might even have invited them.

Bishops banned? Why on earth, when we roll out the red carpet for hate preachers and those who incite the murder of Christians. Surely the Sunday Express has got this story completely wrong.

Well, it’s certainly wrong in one word. They credit the article: ‘Caroline Wheeler Exclusive’ (published Sun, Dec 4, 2016). Yet the Barnabas Fund published this story two days earlier, under the headline ‘UK visas: YES to radical Islamists, NO to Christian archbishops‘, so not so exclusive. Or perhaps Christian websites just don’t count. A bit like Christian bishops.

The Prime Minister sent a letter for the consecration, which spoke of “the appalling violence that has afflicted so many areas of the Middle East”, and how this “reminds us how fortunate we are to live in a country where different religious beliefs are not only tolerated, but welcomed”.

Unless, of course, you’re a bishop from Syria or Iraq, and then you’re not so welcome. The Home Office won’t extend Christian hospitality to some of the bravest Christian leaders on earth because they don’t have enough money to support themselves in the UK or they might not leave the country after the consecration. Yes, that’s what they were apparently told. Shocking, isn’t it?

Makes you ashamed to be British.

Imagine Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf, Archbishop of Mosul, flitting out of the consecration straight after Prince Charles spoke and heading off to the UK Border Agency to claim asylum while his flock back home bleed to death. Or Timothius Mousa Shamani, Archbishop of St Matthew’s Monastery atop Mt Alfaf in northern Iraq, demanding a four-bedroomed house in Acton and living off British benefits while his flock back home squat in tents and eat sand. Or Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh, Archbishop of Homs and Hama in Syria, exaggerating the atrocities committed against him in order to scam the welfare system of hundreds of thousands of pounds…

Insulting, isn’t it?

The Express quotes a Home Office spokesman, who explains: “All visa applications are considered on their individual merits and applicants must provide evidence to show they meet the requirements of the immigration rules.”

If the applications of these three bishops were considered individually, it beggars belief that they were refused for not having enough money or because they might not leave the country. Whatever happened to righteous government? This Home Office decision is a national embarrassment – shameful, indecent and immoral.

So let’s try and remedy the Home Office’s delinquency, shall we?

Here’s the Archbishop of Homs and Hama, pleading: “We have shouted to the world but no one has listened to us. Where is the Christian conscience? Where is human consciousness? Where are my brothers?

Here’s the Archbishop of St Matthew’s Monastery, defiantly sheltering Christians from the Islamic State.

And here’s the Archbishop of Mosul, weeping:

If we may not hear of these things in person from the persecuted bishops banned from entry to the UK, let their witness cry out from the Cyber Cathedral of Archbishop Cranmer, and let the world know how much we Christians are deeply shamed by the incompetence, insensitivity and moral poverty of the UK Home Office.