Choosing anti-truth. The 3 Syriac bishops, the Home Office and Nissar Hussain. © Gavin Ashenden


There used to be just truth and lies, but it’s got more complex of late. Some people are talking about our being in an age of post-truth – which I suppose means we all make up a version of that suits us. But there’s also anti-truth – which is not so much a lie, as an attempt to hide the truth.

And it may have been anti-truth that lay behind the Home Office deciding to refuse visas to three Middle Eastern bishops this last week; two of them were Syrian and one Iraqi.

They were invited to England to help celebrate a new Syriac Orthodox Cathedral being opened in London; a great multicultural event. Prince Charles, who has been a defender of the persecuted and ravaged Christians in the Middle East, was going to be there. It might even have been his suggestion to invite them.

But before they could be allowed in to visit London they had to pass a couple of Home Office tests. There are two that govern visas. They are very simple. Would these three Middle Eastern gentlemen be likely to slip into the shadows once they got over here, and refuse to go home? And did they have enough money to support themselves while they were here?

The Home Office decided that although they had risked their lives to look after their communities and held on through thick and thin, death and disaster, blood and beheadings, it didn’t trust them not to do a runner once they got here and abandon their office, friends and loved ones in order to get on the council housing list in Pinner – or somewhere equally attractive. Although their expenses were guaranteed by their hosts, who had invited them, they were judged to be too financially compromised not to be at risk of staying (the lure of those benefits again).

They were refused permission to enter the country. No celebration of the new cathedral in London. No tea with Prince Charles.

Why were the grounds for refusing them so wildly misjudged – amounting to a reversal of the facts (anti-truth)?

Might it have had to do with something that the Archbishop of Mosul was one of the three bishops?

After the total devastation of his community, burnt buildings, brutality and blood, he addressed the West a couple of years ago:

“Please, try to understand us. Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims. Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles. You think all men are equal, but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home.”

Your first reaction may be to ask yourself if the man suffers from racism, Islamophobia, or perhaps paranoia? Those are the reflexes inculcated in us by our culture. Or maybe he was describing was a Middle Eastern problem? Nothing to do with us.

Except that Nissan Hussein, once a Muslim, but now a Christian, living in Bradford, was finally forced out of his house last week. Since choosing to become a Christian he has been consistently beaten up and threatened by local Muslims. Last week he was escorted by armed police into hiding.

He said: “The armed police arrived at about 3pm last Thursday.

“It took me completely by surprise, but their [the police] professionalism was deeply reassuring, and they escorted my family and I to a safe haven outside Yorkshire.”

He continued: “My family are distraught and extremely traumatised to be leaving.

“But when your life is at stake there is no other choice. This extreme persecution by certain people in the Muslim community because we are converts has broken us as a family.”

Mr Hussain, who had previously worked as a nurse before having to leave his job due to post-traumatic stress disorder, said his six children, and his wife, would not see their friends again.

But at least he is alive. Meanwhile, despite his case featuring on Channel 4, the Church of England bishops have mainly ignored his pleas for help.

Maybe the Home Office were worried that the Archbishop of Mosul would not, and might say- “I told you so”?

When the truth is too difficult, anti-truth is easier. But it’s a game changer when a government or its executive resorts to anti-truth.

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