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A Christian outreach organization that works to support persecuted Christians around the world is demanding to know why the U.K. government has rejected plans by archbishops from Iraq and Syria to visit Britain.

The government decisions come at a time when persecution of Christians by Muslims in those parts of the Middle East is surging, and even persecution of Christians in other European nations by Muslims who come there as “refugees” has become an issue.

Officials with the Barnabas Fund have posted the question online.

“Why is the Home Office [in the U.K. government] denying visas to Christian leaders from countries where Christians are persecuted when they have been invited to the U.K. to speak about persecution?”

It has been an issue for some time already, and the organization’s supporters have contacted their lawmakers about the problem.

The answers they’ve gotten reveal the government’s position that, “There is no problem – it was right to deny the archbishops from Iraq and Syria visas to visit the UK.”

Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea have collaborated to create “Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians,” which confirms that groups like Pew Research, Newsweek and The Economist also identify Christians as “the world’s most widely persecuted religious group.”

Fund officials wrote, “There are three possible explanations: There is a deliberate U.K. policy to deny visas to Christian leaders from such countries (if true this would be the direct responsibility of ministers). U.K. government policy, for whatever reason, indirectly discriminates against such Christian leaders (i.e. the problem is government policy – again the responsibility of ministers). The civil servants in the Home Office are making visa decisions that discriminate against Christian leaders – either on an individual basis or because of a culture within the Home Office (i.e. the civil servants not ministers are to blame).”

They wrote, “Barnabas Fund are not suggesting it is a deliberate policy of the U.K. government to discriminate against church leaders from countries where Christians are persecuted (i.e. explanation 1). In fact, we suspect ministers are privately somewhat embarrassed about the situation.”

But by claiming, “every application is considered on its individual merits, in line with U.K. immigration rules and guidance,” government officials are saying the rejections of the Christians is somehow correct.

“This implicitly blames ministers (explanation 2) for a policy that blocks U.K. visit visas for church leaders, including bishops and archbishops, from countries where Christians are persecuted – but perversely grants them to Islamists who advocate that very persecution. Clearly, ministers should never have allowed civil servants to respond to this situation by writing letters in their name claiming in effect, ‘There is no problem,'” the group said.

The national government should set up immediately “an inquiry into anti-Christian prejudice within the government,” the group said.

That there could be a deeper problem remains possible, they ministry explained.

“The Home Office has allowed the scandalous situation to continue whereby the percentage of Syrian Christians among those admitted to the U.K. under the government’s Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme has now fallen to less than 1 percent of all referrals, despite Christians in Syria facing genocide. Whilst the U.N., to whom the Home Office outsources its selection of refugees, is almost certainly largely to blame, it is the Home Office that has allowed this situation to continue,” the group said.

That same issue also has developed in other European countries as well as in the United States.

Barnabas Fund officials said just this month, senior Egyptian Christian clerics complained their bishops were denied visas to visit the U.K. Last month, rejections were handed out to the archbishop of Mosul in Iraq, the archbishop of St. Matthews (in Iraq), and the archbishop of Homs and Hama in Syria.

They had wanted to attend the consecration of the first Syriac Orthodox Cathedral, made up of many refugees who have fled Christian persecution by Muslims in Iraq and Syria.

In October, it was a church leader from Zimbabwe who has had his house petrol bombed and has rescued people from torture camps. Gift Konjana had been invited to speak in London. And Evan Mawarire, another Zimbabwean pastor, had his visa refused just hours before his scheduled departure to the U.K. to speak.

In September, a pastor that Barnabas Fund itself rescued from Iraq, was refused permission to part of the group’s speaking tour.

Other rejections date back to February, the group said.

“At the same time, Islamists who advocate the killing of Christians have been granted visas for preaching tours of mosques, with a Scottish Sunday newspaper exposing another example earlier this month. Even if these are regarded as mistakes, official Home Office guidance recommends that senior members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood should be considered for asylum, despite the fact they have been involved in inciting large-scale violence against Egyptian Christians since the overthrown of their Muslim Brotherhood government three years ago – with more than 80 churches attacked.

“In fact, only last week President al-Sisi accused fugitive Muslim Brotherhood leaders who fled to Qatar, of training and financing the bombing of St Peter’s Church adjacent to Cairo cathedral which killed 27 Christians and wounded dozens more on 10 December,” the report said.

The facts need to be dealt with by an official inquiry, the organization said.

Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea have collaborated to create “Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians,” which confirms that groups like Pew Research, Newsweek and The Economist also identify Christians as “the world’s most widely persecuted religious group.”

 

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