A sense of déjà vu - An esteemed visitor to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has been denied access to the UK. Rev Rola Sleiman is the first female Pastor in the Arab Christian world, and was expected to give an address on gender justice and the situation in the Middle East. Despite the Church committing to fully funding her visit, it has been refused on the astonishing grounds that she is not deemed to be a genuine visitor.
Earlier this year, I was able to use a Question to the Prime Minister to intervene in a depressingly similar case where the UK Govt was refusing to allow an important delegation from the Diocese of Hyderabad to conclude a twining visit to the local Church of Scotland Presbytery. The refusal suggested that the visitors were not genuine, the appropriate funding was not in place and that there was a risk the visitors would not return home. None of these things were correct.
After I intervened, this ridiculous situation was quickly resolved. The visit went ahead without a hitch, and good work was able to be achieved by the groups in Hyderabad and in Scotland.
It's hugely disappointing that we are here all over again, with a further ridiculous desicion, which is as offensive as it is absurd.
The UK Govt needs to sort this out and stop hampering the positive work that goes on between and across communities across the world.