Christian Persecution

Scores of Anglican clergy complain to Home Secretary about Syriac Orthodox bishops banned from visiting UK

Following the shocking revelation that the Home Office refused to grant visas to three persecuted bishops from Iraq and Syria (who had simply wanted to attend the consecration of a the UK’s first Syriac Orthodox cathedral in London), it comes as a great encouragement to hear that more than 60 members of the clergy (including bishops) of the Church of England have protested directly to the Home Secretary about this appalling lack of Christian hospitality and national generosity, which brings shame upon us all. The letter is the initiative of Fr Christopher Phillips and is reproduced below. If any other members of the clergy wish to append their names, please do so in the comment thread (including church and diocese).


6th December 2016

Dear Home Secretary,

We rejoice that in the United Kingdom our Syriac Orthodox brothers and sisters are free to worship, and that they have a new Cathedral in London. It was particularly pleasing to see the support lent to the consecration of the Cathedral last week by Her Majesty the Queen, and by the presence at the service of HRH The Prince of Wales. You may also be aware that the Prime Minister herself wrote a letter to be read out to the congregation, in which she spoke of “the appalling violence that has afflicted so many areas of the Middle East [which] reminds us how fortunate we are to live in a country where different religious beliefs are not only tolerated, but welcomed”.

We are therefore dismayed that the applications of the Archbishops of Mosul, St Matthew’s, and Homs & Hama for visas to attend the service should have been refused by your office. Each of the dioceses represented by the Archbishops covers territory that has been taken over by Daesh/IS, and Christians there are subject to extreme forms of persecution.

These are respected Christian leaders, whose bona fides could easily have been checked with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office at Lambeth Palace, or with the Syriac Orthodox Church in this country. The reasons given for the refusal of their visa applications (either that they had insufficient funds to support themselves while in the UK, or that there was reason to be concerned that they might not leave the country afterwards) do not seem to take seriously the reality of the Archbishops’ urgent and serious pastoral responsibilities in their home countries.

We entirely understand that as Secretary of State you are unable to comment on individual cases. However, when three separate applications from prominent Christian leaders are rejected on grounds where doubtless guarantees could easily have been found, there must surely be a problem with the system. We call on you urgently to investigate how such a state of affairs has come to exist, and to consider what reforms can be put into place to ensure a more equitable and compassionate system of assessment for such applications.

Yours sincerely,

(The Revd) Christopher Phillips
Vicar of St Mary, Willesden (Diocese of London)

This letter is also co-signed by:

(The Rt Revd) Pete Broadbent
Bishop of Willesden (Diocese of London)

(The Very Revd) Andrew Tremlett
Dean of Durham (Diocese of Durham)

(The Revd Canon) Rosalind Brown
Canon Librarian, Durham Cathedral (Diocese of Durham)

(The Revd Prebendery) William Scott
Diocese of London

(The Revd) Gordon Newton
Vicar of Christchurch, Staincliffe & St John the Evangelist, Carlinghow (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Revd Canon Dr) Simon Jones
Chaplain, Merton College, Oxford

(The Revd) Liam Beadle
Vicar of Honley (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Rt Revd) Alan Wilson
Bishop of Buckingham (Diocese of Oxford)

(The Revd) Edward Lewis
Vicar of St Mary, Kenton (Diocese of London), Chaplain to HM The Queen

(The Revd) Grant Naylor
Vicar, St Matthew’s, Carver Street (Diocese of Sheffield)

(The Revd) Edward Morrison
Assistant Curate, St Wilfrid, Cantley (Diocese of Sheffield)

(The Revd Canon Dr) James Francis
Diocese of Durham

(The Revd) Philippa White
Succentor of Lincoln Cathedral (Diocese of Lincoln)

(The Revd) Andrew Corsie
Director of Training and Development, Willesden Area (Diocese of London)

(The Revd) Michael Cleverley
Honorary Assistant Priest, Fewston with Blubberhouses (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Revd Dr) Johanna Kershaw
Assistant Curate, St Mary’s Todmorden (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Revd) Jonathan Bish
Assistant Curate, Halifax Minster (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Revd Dr) Adrian Furse
Succentor of St David’s Cathedral (Diocese of St David’s, Church in Wales)

(The Revd) David Darling
Retired with PTO (Diocese of London)

(The Revd) Jack Noble
Assistant Curate, St Martin’s, Ruislip (Diocese of London)

(The Revd) Simon Evans
Vicar, St Martin’s, Ruislip (Diocese of London)

(The Revd) Natasha Woodward
Vicar of Holy Innocents, Kingsbury (Diocese of London)

(The Revd Canon) Alistair Helm
Vicar of Manningham (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Revd) Simon Cutmore
Vicar of Mill End and Heronsgate with West Hyde (Diocese of St Albans)

(The Revd) Gareth Jones
Vicar of St Mary, Ilford (Diocese of Chelmsford)

(The Revd) Malcom Hendry
Honorary Curate in Training, St Paul’s Shipley (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Revd) Sam McNally-Cross
Assistant Curate, St Giles-in-Reading (Diocese of Oxford)

(The Revd Canon) Ann Turner
Area Dean of Skipton and DDO for Bradford Area (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Revd Canon Dr) Nicholas Turner
Vicar of Broughton, Marton, and Thornton-in-Craven (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Revd Canon) Richard Parker
Vicar of Hoyland, St Andrew and St Peter (Diocese of Sheffield)

(The Revd) Timothy L’Estrange
Vicar of North Acton (Diocese of London)

(The Revd Dr) Simon Cuff
Assistant Curate, Christ the Saviour, Ealing Broadway (Diocese of London)

(The Revd) Richard Mutter
Assistant Curate, Cleobury Mortimer, Hopton Wafers, Neen Sollars and Milson, Neen Savage and Kinlet and Doddington (Diocese of Hereford)

(The Revd) Robert Hart
Rector of Hemsworth (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Revd) Jeffery Stokoe

(The Revd Dr) Barry Orford
Priest in Charge, St Dunstan-in-the-West (Diocese of London)

(The Revd) Richard Watson
Associate Minister, All Saints Ilkley (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Revd) Shemil Matthew
Assistant Curate, Astwickvale Benefice (Diocese of Peterborough)

(The Revd) Ann Lynes
Assistant Curate, Barnes Team (Diocese of Southwark)

(The Revd) Mark Woodrow
Priest in Charge, Stoke-by-Nayland with Leavenheath and Polstead, and Nayland with Wissington (Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich)

(The Revd Canon) Paul Hutchins
Priest in Charge, St Luke’s, Southport (Diocese of Blackburn)

(The Revd) Jim Barlow
Diocese of Oxford

(The Revd) Alex Barrow
Assistant Curate, Great and Little Coates with Bradley (Diocese of Lincoln)

(The Revd) Jonathan Surridge
Priest in Charge, St Peter’s Highfields, St Philip’s Leicester (Diocese of Leicester)

(The Revd Dr) Geoff Dumbreck
Assistant Curate, Parish of the Ascension, Cambridge (Diocese of Ely)
Assistant Chaplain, Peterhouse, Cambridge

(The Revd Canon) Stephen Jones
Vicar of Carnforth (Diocese of Blackburn)

(The Revd) James McDonald
Assistant Curate, St Peter with St James, Brackley (Diocese of Peterborough)

(The Revd) Sandi Neale
Honorary Assistant Curate, All Saints, Little Horton (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Revd) Richard Norman
Vicar of St George, Bickley (Diocese of Rochester)

(The Revd Canon) Nicolas Spicer
Vicar of the Priory Church of Our Lady and St Cuthbert, Worksop (Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham)

(The Revd) Felix Smith
Assistant Curate, The Coplow Benefice (Diocese of Leicester)

(The Revd) Jason Rendell
Vicar of St Andrew, Kingsbury (Diocese of London)

(The Revd) John Hanks
Honorary Assistant Curate, All Saints York (Diocese of York)

(The Revd) Antony Grant
Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield (Diocese of Leeds)

(The Revd) Ian McCormack
Vicar of Grimethorpe with Brierley (Diocese of Sheffield)

(The Revd) Richard Bastable
Vicar, St Luke’s, Uxbridge Road (Diocese of London)

(The Revd) David Austin
Vicar, St Luke’s, Norwich (Diocese of Norwich)

(The Revd) Neil Knox
Assistant Curate, St Guthlac’s, Market Deeping (Diocese of Lincoln)

(The Revd) Richard Brown
Diocese of Newcastle

(The Revd) John Fry
Vicar of St Mary’s, Theydon Bois, and All Saints’, Theydon Garnon (Diocese of Chelmsford)

  • Stephen Heard

    (The Revd) Stephen Heard
    Assistant Priest, St Mark & St Stephen, Bush Hill Park (Diocese of London)

  • Tony Shutt

    (The Revd) Tony Shutt
    Priest-in-charge, St Mary the Virgin, Send, Surrey (Diocese of Guildford)

  • IanCad

    Well, it’s a start. Where are the other 99%?

    • Dominic Stockford

      My thoughts too. Come on guys, wake the others up, or don’t they care?

    • dannybhoy

      Let’s be thankful that these men are making themselves known here at least.

      • Revd. Zoe Heming

        …and this woman Revd Zoe Heming; Curate; Hodnet Deanery; Lichfield

        • dannybhoy

          but you still only get one uptick..

        • But you don’t really count, being a woman an’ all.

          • dannybhoy

            So harsh..

        • Oisín mac Fionn

          Disabled Nosering’s back!

          So what about Large Girl, Welsh Plonker and everyone’s favourite toilet brush, good old Hipster Vic?

          If anyone can come up with some right-on yet biblically sound theology that can’t fail to win over the Home Office while satisfying evangelicals and liberals alike, surely it has to be the Fab Four?

          • chefofsinners

            He’s back. Linus, the disabled arsering.

          • Pubcrawler

            Dilated, I think you mean.

          • chefofsinners

            Disgruntled, that was it.

  • Ian Gomersall

    (The Revd Canon) Ian Gomersall
    Rector, St Chrysostom’s, Manchester

  • Oliver Coss

    (The Reverend) Oliver Coss
    Rector, All Saints’ with St. Katharine & St. Peter, Northampton (Diocese of Peterborough)

  • There are some 10,000 Anglican priests in England.

    • IanCad

      And if we add all the RC priesthood Jack, that 99% turns into about 99.65% Shameful!

      • The Pope has no jurisdiction in this realm …. and all that. One expects the Established Church to address this one.

        • IanCad

          Jack, Please correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t the letter penned under the initiative of Fr Christopher Phillips SSC, a loyal son of Rome?
          Let me add; an excellent letter to be sure, and, speaking as a Protestant, one I would gladly sign.

          • Jack believes Rev.Christopher Phillips is Anglican. Unless, that is, the fine Church and Shrine in Willesden has been returned to the Catholic Church.

  • Angus MacLeay

    The Revd Canon Angus MacLeay, Rector St Nicholas Sevenoaks, Rochester

  • I can’t understand why someone would have thought that they didn’t have enough funds to be allowed in.
    They could easily have pawned some of that bling if push came to shove.

    • That ‘bling’ is not their personal property – it belongs to the churches they represent. So it would not be right for them to pawn it, any more than it would be right for the Queen to sell off the crown jewels to meet her expenses.

      • dannybhoy

        Bit bolshie coming from you Anna!

  • Paul Dunthorne

    The Revd Paul Dunthorne, Mission and Training Adviser, Diocese of Winchester

  • dannybhoy

    Multiculturalism and equality. Like George Orwell said In Animal Farm, “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others..”
    What power, what influence, what societal considerations do we think would have been at work to ensure that these extremist and divisive Christian clergy were refused entry to the UK?
    Were there security concerns about what might be strapped around their waists and hidden by voluminous clerical vestments?
    Was there collective panic in Anglican circles when they realised there weren’t enough sets of body armour to protect Anglican dignitaries should the ceremony turn ‘hot?’ Were those bishops’ crooks cunningly disguised AK47s?
    I dunno.
    But what a slap in the face to the Syriac Orthodox clergy from a fearful British government, which when it suits them likes to remind us that we are a Christian nation…
    Anyone know what our Archbishop had to say on the matter?

    • dannybhoy

      Another interesting and to the point article from the Barnabas Fund..

      “The refusal of visas to the three archbishops whose flocks are facing genocide puts the spotlight on this issue. It was clear that the men were very senior church leaders. It was also clear they had been invited for a specific occasion, at which Prince Charles was the guest of honour and personal letters from the both HM the Queen and the Prime Minister were read out. It was also clear that, contrary to Home Office claims, these archbishops did have the financial means sustain themselves in the UK. When the visas were refused, Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dawood, the head of the Syriac Orthodox Church in the UK, sent the refusal letters to Lambeth Palace asking for assistance, although Lambeth Palace have as yet been unable to confirm to us whether or not they contacted the Home Office on the archbishop’s behalf.”

      • “When the visas were refused, Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dawood, the head of the Syriac Orthodox Church in the UK, sent the refusal letters to Lambeth Palace asking for assistance, although Lambeth Palace have as yet been unable to confirm to us whether or not they contacted the Home Office on the archbishop’s behalf.”


      • Ivan M

        That’s the Lambeth Palace for you. Nowhere to be seen when Christians are affected, but at the ready to stand by our Muslim, Jewish and Jedi brothers.

    • Maalaistollo

      When, on returning to these benighted shores, you join the queue for the passport control, do you notice anything about the people manning the desks? Anything that might indicate a particular religious affiliation? Do such people represent a significant proportion of the visible officials? If so, is it not reasonable to suppose that people of a similar affiliation are present in significant numbers behind the scenes, including in roles that give them the power to decide to whom entry should be granted and to whom refused?

      • Royinsouthwest

        I think the bureaucrats who made the decision should be identified in order to discourage others from making similarly biased decisions in future.

        • This decision will have been made or endorsed at a senior level. Civil servants tend to cover their backs in these cases.

        • IanCad

          You want for the poor janitor to be sacked?

          • Royinsouthwest

            He probably should be sacked since janitors are the only people in the Civil Service who ever make serious mistakes. Nobody above them does because they always get knighthoods or other distinctions when they retire and the government would obviously not dish out gongs to people who did not thoroughly deserve them.

          • dannybhoy

            And his cat…

      • dannybhoy

        They are gainfully employed British citizens, vetted by HM’s Government to be treated with courtesy and respect; and unless I/we encounter hostility or rudeness I can’t see that there’s anything more to be said.
        Being old school and grateful to be born English/British, I am sad to see the changes in our nation. Never was a fan of multiculturalism, but we are where we are.

    • meecha

      He probably said …we better keep these guys away because they will tell us that ISIS is a US CIA creation and Assad and Putin are doing Christians a massive favor we better keep them away because our masters in Tel Aviv will be upset and call us anti semites and we’ll all end up having to share the cell they are preparing for Stephen Sizer.

  • Tim Buckley

    Revd Tim Buckley, Vicar, St Michael’s and St Barnabas, Devonport

  • Inspector General

    Praise be!

    The persecuted Asher’s Bakery couple Syriac Orthodox bishops must surely be cheered by this most unexpected support…

    • dannybhoy

      You suggestin’ we start a fund or stage a demo?

      • Inspector General

        Not really, and one is certainly not making light of these three men’s tragic problems where they are, but just as concerned with low level background persecution, which like radiation of the same, we can apparently live with!


        • dannybhoy

          It’s all carefully and strategically targeted to destroy our traditional values, most of which were inspired by Christianity and championed by Christians. We need courageous leadership.

    • The Archbishop of Canterbury and his priests have no jurisdiction in the realm of Northern Ireland.

  • Dreadnaught

    Learn from the Muslims – get vocal – get visible – get viable.

    • dannybhoy

      You’re right Dreadnaught, that’s what we need to do.

      • Dreadnaught

        Dan even with my view on religion, I do not want to see Christianity driven underground in the UK.

        • dannybhoy

          I know Dreadders, you mentioned that a week or so ago, and I agreed with you. The problem is that as yet Christian groups haven’t yet realised that in the face of a threat or potential disaster, you have to drop your cherished peripheral issues in order to firmly grasp your sword and lock shields together with other believers.

          • Dreadnaught

            It’s the only way to survive.

    • Anton

      And get the Archbishop to say something.

      • Old Nick
        • Anton

          Good show, but I meant about the Home Office turning these folk away. Not in my name, but I don’t have Justin’s platform.

          • Old Nick

            I agree. One never knows what is happening in the way of negotiation that it would be foolish to make public.
            The people who I feel have a public duty to tell the public about all this are the BBC, who have regaled us with copious information about the unfortunate Yezidis (good people who actually get on well with the Christians in SE Turkey, and who of course are not Devil-worshippers), but have precious little to say about the much more numerous Christians. One fears that they are so ignorant about Christianity that they want to keep quiet for fear that we will all march on Downing Street demanding a crusade if we are allowed to know that our co-religionists are being tortured and crucified.

    • chefofsinners

      Get Viagra.

      • Dreadnaught

        Agreeed – Industrial Strength of course.

  • CliveM

    It’s a start and hopefully not the end.

  • Royinsouthwest

    Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

    The words of Winston Churchill in a speech at the Lord Mayor’s Luncheon Mansion House when he talked about our victory in the Battle of Alamein are, I hope, applicable in the battle against unfair treatment of Christians by our jobsworth bureaucrats and quisling politicians.

    • petej

      Its simply a consequence of draconian immigration laws. This is how our country treats everybody- not just Christian bishops!

  • In many countries these church leaders are treated on par with the political leaders; and it is expected that the churches that invite them will pay for their visits. It is unusual for even Muslim countries to deny them visas. So an investigation is necessary, and it heartening to see the Anglican church leaders standing up against this unfair treatment.

    • dannybhoy

      Mark 3>
      “………And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end.
      27 No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.”

      This is the problem we Christians are facing. We continue to allow our peripheral and parochial differences to obscure what (should) unite us, i.e. The risen Lord Jesus Christ. We are so busy indulging our differences that we fail to see how far the enemy has come in plotting our downfall. Our Church leaders should be coming together, calling their flocks together, setting dates so that together, united, we pray. For the Church, for our mission and for our nation.
      At this point in the history of our nation nothing else matters.

      • IanCad

        So true Danny, but let’s not go too far down the ecumenical trail – we all know where that will lead.

        • dannybhoy

          Agreed, but perhaps it depends on what is meant by ‘ecumenical’. The old idea that it was all about unity at all costs was patently wrong. Just as the idea that the CofE can survive or thrive by trying to accommodate those who reject the basics* of the faith is wrong.
          *salvation by faith not works, sanctification and discipleship, the proclamation of the Gospel etc.
          (And at some point one of my Christian brothers will act as a living parable and point out that my list of basics is incomplete; and that is what I mean by making accuracy more important than action… :0)

    • petej

      Why should they be treated differently to ordinary people? I don’t think it is good that they are kept out, but I do think it is good from time to time for powerful religious leaders to see what life is like for ordinary folk.

      • Cannonkat

        They are being butchered and beheaded where they are from! Perhaps trade places with them so you can taste how luxurious and refined their life has been c/o the hospitality of ISIS. We await your condescension.

        • petej

          They wouldn’t be able to come to the UK if they had been beheaded. I don’t think anyone should be barred from entry but I don’t think bishops should be accorded entry when their ordinary parishioners are not.

  • Will Briggs

    (The Revd) Will Briggs, Associate Rector, St. Nicolas Newbury and St. Mary Speen, Diocese of Oxford

  • Tina Minett Stevens

    (The Revd) Tina Minett Stevens, Assistant Curate, St. Mary’s with Holy Apostles, Scarborough (Diocese of York)

  • F.W. Atkins

    Revd FW Atkins Diocese of Armagh
    persecuted clergy not welcome to UK but sufis who advocate murder for politicians who oppose the abuse of blasphemy laws and the death penalty for falsely accused- come on in!

    • petej

      If that were true it would be very clearly illegal discrimination – so why does nobody sue the home office?

      • F.W. Atkins

        it is true.The keepers of the eidgah shrine in Rawalpindi have called on Muslims to emulate Mumtaz Qadri and declared him a martyr and called for the death penalty for Asia Bibi. They were given visas to tour uk and were even welcomed by The ABC to Lambeth Palace. Of course, we don’t know what he said to them, and he must be aware that the ur Rehman’s have the power to incite widespread violence against Christians.

        • petej

          But presumably they were sufficiently rich? If they were welcomed by the ABC then the home office probably didn’t consider them a security threat. I cant find any evidence online that this man has called for aasia bibi’s death. I think the only link is that she has been convicted of blasphemy in Pakistan and he is a Muslim leader from Pakistan?

          • F.W. Atkins

            I’ve heard it myself on a video published on Hassan ur Rehman’s facebook page- it is in Urdu but my wife translated. The Home Office is not obliged to give a reason for visa refusal. My own relatives who are clergy in Pakistan have been denied visas to participate in interfaith discussions in Birmingham. If the Home Office decides there is no incentive to return home after the visit,that is sufficient reason for a refusal. Persecuted Christians are therefore likely to be refused, whilst wealthy influential Muslim hate preachers have no problem getting visas.

          • petej

            Well there you are then, it is discrimination by wealth and safety, not by faith…although it probably is still indirect discrimination by faith and could potentially be illegal.

          • F.W. Atkins

   it was here, but I think it may have been removed. Basically he was calling on the faithful to attend the funeral of murderer Mumtaz Qadri and honour him as a martyr- in the same speech he calls for the death of Asia Bibi. The Easter bomb in a park in Lahore, targeting Christian families was a response to Qadri’s execution.

  • dannybhoy

    Danny notes with sadness that up ’til now not one member of the Norfolk clergy has ‘outed’ themselves on this issue.
    I know we’re sloooow in Norfolk, but surely they must have heard of the internet? Let’s pretend it’s really about the Parish Share and see if anyone responds…… ;)0

  • (The Revd) Sam Norton, Rector of West Mersea, Diocese of Chelmsford

  • len

    There was never a better time for Christian values to be upheld against an ever darkening world.
    The Light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ will become a beacon for those who seek the truth and the love that shone through Jesus Christ.He must lifted up.

  • Anton

    Grand to see how many vicars read Cranmer, even if they prefer not to contribute to the threads. To the Clergy who have signed up – please preach about this business from your pulpits too!

  • petej

    The bishops have simply been treated as badly as anybody else. This is a consequence of wanting to keep foreigners out!

    • Royinsouthwest

      Given that about half a million immigrants (not tourists, people on business and other short term visitors) are admitted every year your point is ludicrous.

      • petej

        Rich immigrants are admitted. Poorer ones, like the bishops are not. When you see to the wind you reap the whirlwind.

        • Intonsus

          What you mean like the second and third wives of indigent unemployed ‘asians’?

          • petej

            I mean that the UK has a strict immigration policy driven largely by a xenophobic press, which is dependent on the wealth of an individual. I don’t see why these gentlemen should be let in when those in their pews wouldn’t be.

            Were it up to me I would say “the earth is the lords and everything in it” I would have a more welcoming policy.

  • Dreadnaught

    This action of the Home Office is of a piece with our general refusal to recognise the extent to which Christians in the Middle-East are suffering, We seem unwilling to do this because we don’t want to ask why it is that Christians are being targeted, and whether this proceeds from the religious motivations of other groups.

  • Intonsus

    Revd Richard Woods, retired
    (PTO Canterbury)

  • Dexter Bracey

    I’m sorry I didn’t see this before, or I would have added my name sooner.
    The Revd Dexter Bracey, Priest-in-Charge, Swindon New Town, Diocese of Bristol.