Syrian pastor visa decision reversed, says Church of Scotland

The Reverend Rola Sleiman Image copyright Church of Scotland
Image caption The Reverend Rola Sleiman is the first female pastor in the Arab Christian world.

A Syrian pastor has been granted permission to travel to the UK after initially being refused entry, the Church of Scotland has said.

The Reverend Rola Sleiman is now expected to attend the Church's General Assembly on Saturday.

The Church said she was initially denied a visa by the Home Office but "common sense prevailed" and the decision was reversed.

A Home Office spokeswoman said it would not comment on individual cases.

She added that each application is considered on its individual merits based on the evidence provided and in line with the UK's immigration rules.

Ms Sleiman is the first female pastor in the Arab Christian world.

She is a representative of the National Evangelical (Protestant) Church of Syria and Lebanon and she took up a new post as parish minister in Tripoli, Lebanon, in February.

The Church of Scotland said its world mission council confirmed to the UK Visas and Immigration department last month that Ms Sleiman's expenses would be covered during her eight-day stay.

Visa waiver

But Ms Sleiman received a letter from the Home Office on 8 May saying that it was not satisfied that her income was what she claimed and that the Church was going to support her financially.

However, after the situation received media coverage on Tuesday, the case was reviewed.

The Church of Scotland said it had been informed by the British Embassy in Amman in Jordan that Ms Slieman had now been granted permission to enter the UK.

The Very Rev Dr John Chalmers, principal clerk of the General Assembly, said: "We are grateful to the Home Office who have heard our request and granted a visa waiver enabling the Rev Rola Sleiman to travel and join us at the General Assembly in Edinburgh.

"It was clear from the support that we received overnight from the media, the public and the church that people felt a mistake had been made and an important voice might be missing from our Assembly.

"In the end common sense prevailed and it has all happened in time for us to complete Rola's travel arrangements.

"We now look forward to welcoming her."

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