US Denies Visa to Iraqi Nun Who Was to Testify Before Congress

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By John Burger,
But State Dept Clears a Delegation of Yazidis at Same Time
A multiethnic, interdenominational delegation from Iraq is expected to visit Washington to testify before Congress and plead the case of religious minorities being persecuted by the Islamic State group (ISIS).

But because the visa for an Iraqi nun was denied, there will be no Christian in the group.

Unless the U.S. State Department changes its mind, Dominican Sister Diana Momeka, who has worked among the internally displaced persons in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil since tens of thousands of Christians were forced to take refuge there last summer, will be sitting out the mid-May trip.

Momeka said Thursday on the “Glenn Beck Show” that a consular officer in Erbil told her the visa was denied because she is an IDP, or internally displaced person, and the State Department apparently doesn’t believe she will return to Iraq once she gets on U.S. soil.

According to officials, she was not found to have “ties that will compel you to return to your home country after your travel to the United States.”

Beck was furious on his television show, The Blaze reported.

“Remember, we’re just letting people come in across the border,” he fumed. “We don’t care. … [She wants to come] for a reason. She has a reason to come into the country; we don’t let [her] in.”

At one time, Momeka lived in America for six years. She has letters of support from members of Congress to help her obtain the visa.

“I have all the support letters,” Momeka told Beck. “I didn’t expect that answer. … I questioned myself, Is an IDP not a human anymore? … Does that mean I’m not allowed to travel anymore?”

She told Beck: “I am so honored to be an Iraqi Christian who has been persecuted. But I just felt I was so persecuted by this answer [from the consulate], to tell you the truth,” she said.

Beck told Momeka, “Sister, to be real honest with you, I don’t think I’m alone that — we know what’s going on. We know that God won’t hold us blameless. But we feel ill-equipped. Every day I come in to this show and I do this show, and I feel like — honestly, I’m watching you in a monitor. I see the camera take the angle … where I’m sitting in this nice chair in this air-conditioned studio. And I’m talking to you and I’m thinking to myself, ‘What the hell are you doing? You should be out helping.’

“But I don’t know how to help,” Beck continued. “And I think that most of our audience feels the same way. We know what’s going on, sister. We just don’t know what to do.”

“Pray for us that we can return to our homes, because without our homes, we have become people without identity,” Momeka responded, The Blaze reported. 

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Momeka was invited to join the delegation, which will be testifying before House and Senate foreign relations committees and meeting with officials at the State Department, USAID, and various NGOs, by the Institute for Global Engagement and former congressman Frank Wolf’s 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative.

Nina Shea, of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, wrote on National Review Online Thursday:

“Earlier this week, we learned that every member of an Iraqi delegation of minority groups, including representatives of the Yazidi and Turkmen Shia religious communities, has been granted visas to come for official meetings in Washington — save one. The single delegate whose visitor visa was denied happens to be the group’s only Christian from Iraq.

“Sister Diana Momeka of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena was informed on Tuesday by the U.S. consulate in Erbil that her non-immigrant visa application has been rejected. The reason given in the denial letter, a copy of which I have obtained, is:

“You were not able to demonstrate that your intended activities in the United States would be consistent with the classification of the visa.”

In other words, the State Department thinks she’s going to pull a fast one: get to Washington under false pretenses and then overstay her visa, as if she was someone coming in on a tourist visa intending to find a job and stay, or apply for asylum. 

Elyse Bauer Anderson, senior adviser and director of special projects at the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, confirmed for Aleteia that her organization had written a letter for Sister Diana but did not want to speculate on why the nun was denied a visa.

“I believe that one other member of the delegation (the representative of the Turkmen group) is based in Iraq but he is not an IDP so he didn’t encounter any problem,” Anderson said. “The Yezidi representative actually lives in Canada, I believe.”

A State Department spokeswoman, Nicole Thompson, said that for reasons of privacy, the Department of State does not discuss individual visa cases.

“While Section 222(f) of the INA prohibits us from disclosing details from individual visa cases, the State Department is very concerned about the safety and rights of members of Iraq’s minority populations, including Christians, as we are for all Iraqis,” she said.

“Protecting these communities in the face of the existential threat [that ISIS or ISIL] poses is a part of our regular diplomatic engagement, as well as one of the priorities of our counter-ISIL strategy and of the 62-nation international counter-ISIL Coalition.

“This coalition has come to the aid of minority communities and others by providing humanitarian assistance, conducting a campaign of coordinated airstrikes, military assistance, diplomatic engagement, and intelligence and messaging coordination,” Thompson said.

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