First female Arab Christian minister allowed into UK after last minute Home Office reversal

The first female Arab Christian minister will be allowed to visit to the Church of Scotland's General Assembly after a last-minute change of heart by the Home Office.

Ministers had initially barred Rev Rola Sleiman, from the National Evangelical (Protestant) Church of Syria and Lebanon, claiming they were not convinced she would leave again after her eight-day visit.

FacebookSyrian-born Rev Rola Sleiman was initially refused a visa for a church visit to the UK.

But after a stream of protests and appeals the British Embassy in Amman, Jordan, said the 42-year-old would be allowed entry to the UK on Friday.

Ms Sleiman said she was 'extremely grateful and thankful' for the support but added she felt unjustly treated.

'Many things were said that were not right such as not able to cover the cost of my stay and not willing to go back to my country,' she said.

'I am concerned about leaving my church for just one Sunday.

'But now I feel that I am supported by fellow believers and I am not alone.

'I am extremely grateful for what people have done.'

Ms Sleiman took up a new post in Tripoli, Lebanon, in February and is scheduled to be part of the Kirk's debate as well as discussions on gender justice and the political situation in the Middle East.

Very Rev Dr John Chalmers, Principal Clerk of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said 'common sense had prevailed'.

He 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.'