Sister Ban Madleen, a Dominican sister from Iraq who had to flee ISIS, has once again been denied entry to the United Kingdom.
Madleen was attempting to visit her sick sister, who lives in the country, but immigration officials said that she had not provided enough evidence that she was not going to overstay her visa and attempt to live in the U.K. permanently. Madleen runs a kindergarten in Iraq and belongs to a religious community there, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena.
The religious sister first attempted to obtain a visa to the U.K. in April, but was denied. Government officials said that she had failed to demonstrate that she made a sufficient income as a school principal, and she had not shown that her community would be funding her trip. The denial letter also questioned why she had not visited the U.K. since 2011, when she was last granted a visa.
Madleen, along with the rest of her community, was forced to flee the Christian town of Qaraqosh in 2014 when ISIS took over their convent. She has since been living in the city of Erbil, in northern Iraq.
ISIS controlled the convent until late 2016, when the sisters were finally able to return to visit their now-demolished church.
The news of her most recent denial was shared on Twitter by Fr. Benedict Kiely, the founder of Nasarean.org, which seeks to assist persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
“The U.K., has, for the second time, denied a visa to my friend, Iraqi nun Sister Ban Madleen- driven out of her convent by ISIS but unacceptable for a month’s visit to the U.K.,” Kiley wrote on Twitter.
Other Catholic religious from Iraq have also encountered problems while attempting to visit the U.K. and other western countries. One of Sr. Madleen’s sisters, Sr. Diana Momeka, was initially denied a visa to visit the United States to testify before Congress. She eventually received permission after an uproar.
In 2017, the Institute of St. Anselm, a theology school for priests and nuns formerly located in Kent, was forced to relocate to Rome after experiencing significant issues with acquiring visas for foreign students, the Catholic Herald reported.
The U.K.’s Home Office withdrew the school’s license for visas after more than 10 percent of applications were denied. Among the reasons listed for the denials was a concern that a priest was unmarried, and that a religious sister did not have a personal bank account. According to Fr. Kiely, a nun with a PhD in theology from Oxford University was similarly barred from visiting the U.K.
In 2016, the U.K. denied entry to three archbishops from Iraq and Syria. They were invited to attend the consecration of London’s Syriac Orthodox Cathedral, and were supposed to meet with Prince Charles, according to the Catholic Herald. The Home Office said there were significant concerns that the three would be unable to support themselves.
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