archbishops from Iraq and Syria were refused entry into the UK despite
being invited by the country’s Syriac Orthodox Church.
Archbishop Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf of Mosul, Archbishop of St
Matthew’s Timothius Mousa Shamani and Archbishop Selwanos Boutros
Alnemeh of Homs and Hama, were all refused UK visas which would have
enabled them to attend the consecration of the UK’s first Syriac
Orthodox Cathedral, last month.
The bishops were told that they were refused entry because they did
not have sufficient funds to support themselves and because they might
not leave the UK.
Lord Alton of Liverpool, said he was incredulous when he heard the
news. He said: “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. Its a decision that brings shame on our
“These amazingly courageous bishops come from the Mosul region of
Iraq – where Christians have been beheaded, crucified, raped and either
forcibly converted or forced to flee as their possessions have been
seized by radical Islamists. 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.”
In an editorial, the Daily Express condemned the decision, saying:
“While we appreciate the necessity of efficient border controls, surely
it can’t be beyond the wit of a Home Office pencil-pusher to realise
that these men of the cloth were a special case?
“Last week we learned that 650,000 immigrants made their way to
Britain, the highest level yet. And yet somehow, while letting all these
in, officials contrived to ban these three wise men who have risked
their lives for the Christian faith.
“Mary and Joseph were told there was no room at the inn. At this time
of the year in particular we would do well to be more mindful of the
The UK’s Syriac Orthodox Christians Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dawod
told the Daily Express: “These are men who have pressing pastoral
responsibilities as Christian areas held by IS are liberated. That is
why we cannot understand why Britain is treating Christians in this
Meanwhile, the SNP MP, Kirsten Oswald, raised a similar issue at Prime Minister’s Questions last week.
The MP told the House: “Guests from the Hyderabad diocese have twice
been refused visas to visit the Church of Scotland presbytery of Glasgow
as part of a twinning initiative, the suggestion being that the visit
was not genuine, despite the paperwork being correct and the Church
bearing the costs.
“When I raised this with the Leader of the House, he spoke of the
need for people to return home after visits, and then the Immigration
Minister told me in a patronising letter how to apply for a visa. Will
the Prime Minister tell the Church why its visitors are not welcome and
what messages she thinks it sends to our faith communities?”
The Prime Minister responded by saying that the Home Secretary should look into the case.