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Syrian Pastor Denied Travel to General Assembly

Friday May 19 2017


The Church of Scotland has said it is 'disappointed' that the Syrian pastor the Rev Rola Sleiman will be unable to attend its General Assembly after being prevented from boarding a flight in Lebanon last night.

Ms Sleiman, the first female pastor in the Arab Christian world, had been due to be at the gathering, which starts tomorrow, after an initial refusal to grant her a visa was overturned earlier this week.

The Principal Clerk to the General Assembly, the Very Rev Dr John Chalmers, said: “This has been a regrettable situation. Ms Sleiman was forced to make a two-hour journey from Beirut airport to her home in Tripoli last night after being turned back by officials.

"We accept the genuine efforts Home Office officials have made in recent days to overturn the original refusal to grant Ms Sleiman a visa, and it is unfortunate that the measures put in place were not sufficient to allow Ms Sleiman to board her flight. We had hoped to welcome Ms Sleiman to our gathering on Saturday, and hear first-hand the challenges facing the Christian community in the Middle East. It is a matter of real sorrow this will no longer be possible."
 
Mr Chalmers added that the delegate from South Sudan had also been refused a visa. He said: “This is a particular disappointment to me, given the continuing efforts I am engaging in to build peace in this young and troubled nation. I would like to urge the Home Office to review its visa process to ensure the United Kingdom’s international reputation as a place of welcome is not diminished.”  


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