Today the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) added its voice and efforts to the chorus of Christians and churches who have condemned a Home Office decision to refuse Pakistani Christian clerics visas to visit their twin church in Scotland. The Church of Scotland has a long established program of exchange visits with and other support measures for churches in the developing world including many impoverished nations and where Christians are often persecuted. However, despite the Church of Scotland guaranteeing all aspects of their stay financially, in this case the Home Office refused to allow them to attend, claiming that the Christian leaders were too poor to meet relevant criteria and posed a risk of overstaying and becoming illegal immigrants.
BPCA chairman Wilson Chowdhry explained why the BPCA had spoken out: ‘We are appalled that peaceful and legitimate Christian leaders and clerics are not being allowed into the country for a meeting with a well-established church that has long experience of handling such matters, particularly when the Home Office recently let in two Pakistani Muslim clerics, Muhammad Naqib ur Rehman and his son Haseeb Ur Rehman, with a long record of inciting hatred against Christians and other objectionable behaviour for an extensive speaking tour of the nation, and meetings with prominent individuals including the Archbishop of Canterbury.
‘The Church of Scotland has had an exemplary record for a long time in such matters, with many people coming over on such programs from very poor countries, and not a single one absconding to stay here, apparently. Why specifically Pakistani Christian clerics have been denied entry is a worrying question. Of course, Home Office officials say they were only applying the rules, but in the limited material released, it seems to imply that the clerics produced bank evidence that they met the criteria and that this has been dismissed as somehow fraudulent or inaccurate, imputing dishonesty to these clerics, and, we are informed, naturally has left them shocked and depressed.’
He added that staff in his organisation have quite often been told over the past few years by Pakistani Christian leaders of how frustrating it was to see Muslims, including Muslims who have been involved in persecuting Christians, gaining entry and residence in the UK with apparent ease, whilst roadblocks seems to be repeatedly put in front of Christians, although he added that the UK was not alone in that. The BPCA has approached Home Office contacts about the Administrative Appeal process, despite the rejection letter specifically denying that avenue of address, and have offered their help to the relevant Church of Scotland officials if they need it. He stated for clarity’s sake that his comments and those of Lord Alton recorded below are not authorized or endorsed by the Church of Scotland.
Lord Alton, who has long campaigned for better attitudes towards persecuted Christians, made his exasperation clear, stating that‘Officials in the Home Office appear to live in their own Upside Down World where invited visitors to the UK, promoting links between Christians in Pakistan and Scotland, are refused permission to come here, while Jihadist radicals can settle here, get in a car, and drive to Scotland to murder someone because he is the “wrong kind of Muslim.” They say they have a “Prevent” strategy” but the only thing they are preventing in their world of upside down values is an outbreak of common sense.’
The BPCA is urging readers and Christians everywhere, but especially in Scotland, to contact their MP’s to raise this issue, and have written a suggested letter to help people do that.