The PJ Tatler

Why Is the State Department Barring an Iraqi Nun from Entering the United States?

Sister-Diana-Momeka

Every member of a delegation of Iraqi minority groups has been granted visas to visit Washington for official meetings — except one. An Iraqi nun, who is a representative of the Nineveh Christians who have been forced to flee Iraq or be slaughtered by ISIS, has been barred from entering the United States by the Obama administration.

*Sister Diana Momeka was hoping to have a chance to tell Americans about the devastation Christians have suffered at the hands of ISIS, but the only Christian member of a delegation that includes Turkmen Shia and Yazidis is not welcome.

The State Department’s reasoning, according to National Review’s Nina Shea, is completely specious.

She told me in a phone conversation that, to her face, consular officer Christopher Patch told her she was denied because she is an “IDP” or Internally Displaced Person. “That really hurt,” she said. Essentially, the State Department was calling her a deceiver. The State Department officials made the determination that the Catholic nun could be falsely asserting that she intends to visit Washington when secretly she could be intending to stay. That would constitute illegal immigration, and that, of course, is strictly forbidden.

(Ms. Shea was being sarcastic there — in case you missed it.)

Once here, she could also be at risk for claiming political asylum, and the U.S. seems determined to deny ISIS’s Christian victims that status. In reality, Sister Diana wanted to visit for one week in mid-May. She has meetings set up with the Senate and House foreign-relations committees, the State Department, USAID, and various NGOs. In support of her application, Sister Diana had multiple documents vouching for her and the temporary nature of her visit. She submitted a letter from her prioress, Sister Maria Hana. It attested that the nun has been gainfully employed since last February with the Babel College of Philosophy and Theology in Erbil, Kurdistan, and is contracted to teach there in the 2015–16 academic year.

The Obama administration has rolled out the welcome mat for teenagers from Central America and Syrian Muslims seeking political asylum, but the prospect of a single nun — whose people are being systematically exterminated in Iraq — receiving political asylum is apparently odious to them. But that is not what Sister Diana was even planning to do.

In reality, Sister Diana wanted to visit for one week in mid-May. She has meetings set up with the Senate and House foreign-relations committees, the State Department, USAID, and various NGOs. In support of her application, Sister Diana had multiple documents vouching for her and the temporary nature of her visit. She submitted a letter from her prioress, Sister Maria Hana. It attested that the nun has been gainfully employed since last February with the Babel College of Philosophy and Theology in Erbil, Kurdistan, and is contracted to teach there in the 2015–16 academic year.

It turns out that the 30-something-year-old Sister Diana is an incredibly accomplished spokesman for persecuted Christians in Iraq, and “has become internationally known as a charismatic and articulate advocate for religious freedom and human rights.”

Rep. Frank Wolf met the notorious nun in Kurdistan a few months ago. “We had hoped to facilitate her trip to the States so that she could speak with great candor, as is her custom, to policymakers. Perhaps just as significantly, we viewed her as a critical voice to awaken the church in the West to the suffering of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq,” he explained.

Why the  U.S. consulate would bar Sister Diana from entering the United States (for being an IDP), but not a delegation of IDP Yazidis, who were given U.S. visas to come to Washington to speak last October, is anyone’s guess.

Shea concluded by sharing the State Department’s  2015 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review pledge, which, she notes, “adds insult to injury”: “every overseas post and domestic bureau will seek opportunities to engage religious leaders,” as part of its pursuit of countering “violent extremism.”

Right. Unless you happen to be a Catholic nun countering “violent extremism.”

Elizabeth Scalia — who is usually much more subtle and diplomatic than I am — says the excuse the State Department gave to bar Sister Diana from coming to the U.S. “sounds like pure-d bullcrap.”

Why does this administration go out of its way to avoid noticing or mentioning what is happening to Christians in Iraq and Libya and elsewhere? Why are Catholic nuns too suspect to be allowed into the country? What is the problem, exactly?

Indeed. It’s difficult not to see this latest affront as part of the Obama administrations’s increasingly hostile stance toward Christians here and abroad.

Here, via the Anchoress, is a video featuring Sister Diana with two other nuns talking about the desperate plight of Christians in Iraq back in January of 2013. The brave woman stuck it out until August of 2014, when she, along with 50,000 other Christians, had to flee Qaraqosh when ISIS stormed the town.

Behold what the Obama administration deems unworthy of entering the United States:

 *An earlier version of this post contained a typo that has been corrected. The Iraqi nun’s full name is Sister Diana Momeka.