London: Three Christian leaders from Iraq and Syria were denied entrance to the UK last week – despite a formal invitation to meet Prince Charles.
The men planned to travel to London for a consecration ceremony of Britain’s first Syriac Orthodox Cathedral.
Archbishops Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf of Mosul, Timothius Mousa Shamani of St Matthew’s in Nineveh valley of northern Iraq, and Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh of Homs and Hama in Syria reportedly missed the event as the Home Office deemed their visa applications unacceptable.
The three claimed that they were told their visas were denied because they ‘did not have enough money to support themselves and might not leave the UK’, according to the Sunday Express.
Archbishop Alnemeh claims he was told by the British embassy that they do not issue visas to anyone in Syria.
The incident has been condemned by critics such as Dr Martin Parsons, who heads research at the Barnabas Fund, which aids Christians to escape war-torn countries.
He 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.
‘There is a serious systemic problem when Islamist leaders who advocate the persecution of Christians are given the green light telling them that their application 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.’
In August of this year, The Home Office released a statement which discussed asylum grants being given to members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood – which is characterised as a terrorist organisation in their own country.
According to their statement: ‘High profile supporters or those perceived to support the MB, such as journalists, may also be similarly at risk of persecution. In such cases, a grant of asylum will be appropriate.’
Dr Parsons also claims that two Islamic leaders from Pakistan who advocate the killing of Christians accused of blasphemy were granted UK visas in July.
The Home Office told the Sunday Express that ‘all visa applications are considered on their individual merits and applicants must provide evidence to show they meet the requirements of the immigration rules.’