The Hudson Institute's Nina Shea spotlighted the plight of a Catholic sister, who was denied entry to the U.S. by the Obama administration, in a Thursday item for National Review. She noted how "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," except for Sister Diana Momeka of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena.
Shea, who heads the conservative organization's Center for Religious Freedom, led her piece, "With Malice Toward Nun,' by bluntly asking, "Why is the United States barring a persecuted Iraqi Catholic nun — an internationally respected and leading representative of the Nineveh Christians who have been killed and deported by ISIS — from coming to Washington to testify about this catastrophe?" The writer pointed out that the Dominican sister was the delegation's "only Christian from Iraq," and disclosed the reason why the State Department denied her visa:
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.
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. 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.
The writer then outlined Sister Diana's reasons for her visit and the endorsements she received from two politicians – one Republican and one Democrat:
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.
She also submitted an invitation from her sponsors, two highly respected Washington-area institutions, the Institute for Global Engagement and former congressman Frank Wolf's (R., Va.) 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. For good measure, she also had a letter of endorsement for her visit from Representative Anna Eshoo (D., Calif.).
This was apparently not good enough for the Obama administration, as Shea lamented: "The State Department wasn't buying. It either thought that they were all in on a scheme by the nun or that Sister Diana was plotting to deceive her well-placed friends and supporters, as well as the U.S. government."
Sister Diana has actually visited the United States before. On May 17, 2012, the Dominican sister gave the graduate commencement address for the Chicago Theological Union. Sister Diana's classmates chose her for this honor, and the prioress of her Iraqi congregation attended the ceremony. Since her graduation with a Doctor of Ministry degree, the sister has become a prominent member of the displaced Christian community in Iraq after ISIS violently took over parts of the Nineveh Plain – a detail that Shea pointed out:
...Sister Diana had a distinguished academic career and had been teaching an intensive course on spiritual direction at St. Ephrem Seminary, as well as English and peacemaking courses. She, along with the town's 50,000 other, mostly Christian, residents, fled for their lives from ISIS during the second week of August. Since then, the 30-something religious woman has served as a spokesperson for this community, as well as for the over 100,000 other Christians driven into Kurdistan under the ISIS "convert or die" policy....Mr. Wolf, who met her in Kurdistan a few months ago, explained, "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."
It should be pointed out that as the State Department is denying Sister Diana's request to travel to the U.S., they now have a "special envoy for the human rights of LGBT persons" – a detail that the Catholic League's Bill Donohue zeroed in on in a Thursday news release (disclaimer: MRC President Brent Bozell is on the Catholic League's board of advisors).
One wonders if any of the major news media outlets will pick up on the story of Sister Diana. Just over a month ago, on 60 Minutes, CBS's Lara Logan refreshingly brought new attention to ISIS's genocidal campaign against the ancient Christian communities in Iraq. But since then, there has been scant coverage of the Islamic extremist group's persecution of the religious minority.