UK grants visa to first Arab female Christian pastor after initially refusing her entry

(Wikimedia Commons/Canley)The current offices of the British Home Office, located at 2 Marsham Street, London. Photo taken on Nov. 15, 2005.

The Home Office has decided to allow the first Arab female pastor to enter the UK after initially refusing to grant her a visa due to fears that she might not leave the country.

Syrian-born Rev. Rola Sleiman was invited by the Church of Scotland to attend the week-long General Assembly in Edinburgh, but the Home Office refused to grant her a visa, saying it was not convinced that she will leave the UK at the end of her visit.

In its letter of refusal to Sleiman, the Home Office stated that it was not satisfied with her claims regarding her income and that the Church was going to cover her expenses.

The Home Office only decided to review Sleiman's case after her rejection received media coverage on Tuesday.

The Church of Scotland said that it had been informed that the British Embassy in Amman in Jordan has decided to grant Sleiman permission to enter the UK.

"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," said Very Rev. Dr. John Chalmers, principal clerk of the General Assembly, according to BBC.

"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," he added.

Sleiman, who is representing the National Evangelical (Protestant) Church of Syria and Lebanon at the General Assembly, was officially ordained as a pastor in February.

When she was 17 years old, she applied to be adopted by the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, which subsequently sponsored her degree in Theology and Christian Education.

She began leading Sunday services on a temporary basis in the church she grew up attending in her hometown of Tripoli, Lebanon until the pastor left the country to travel in 2006.

Sleiman became the interim minister of the church when the pastor left the country in 2008 to live permanently in the United States. However, she was still unable to perform sacraments or baptisms without male supervision because she was not an officially ordained pastor.

She became the first female pastor in the Arab Christian world on Feb. 26, 2017 after the Synod ordained her by a vote of 23 to one.

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