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FRANCE - SYRIE

Syrian Christian choir denied visa to sing at French sacred music festival

The Saint Ingnatius Cathedral choir
The Saint Ingnatius Cathedral choir Sacrées Journées de Strasbourg

A Syrian Christian choir has been refused visas to come to France to perform in a sacred music festival, leading organisers to denounce official "hypocrisy" in the wake of the refugee crisis. The interior ministry has ordered that their case be reexamined.

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The 20 members of the choir of a Greek Orthodox cathedral in Damascus were billed to give three concerts in the eastern French city of Strasbourg in early November as part of as part of the Sacred Days festival of music from various religions.

They travelled by bus to the French embassy in Beirut to apply for visas but, although they were armed with return air tickets, hotel bookings and a letter from Strasbourg Mayor Roland Ries, their applications were turned down, according to festival organiser Jean-Louis Hoffet.

"I'm outraged, amazed that they can refuse visas to people who are coming to sing for their faith in our churches, while people are making grand speeches about accepting 24,000 migrants!" Hoffet commented.

The choir perform in Aramaic, the language spoken in Palestine at at the time of Jesus Christ, and a related language, Syriac.

In Paris the interior minister told the AFP news agency that it had about the case thanks to the media and had immediately ordered the Beirut consulate to cast a more friendly eye over the case.

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