Christian Group In Asylum Seeker Call

The Home Office was under pressure today to reform the way Christian asylum seekers are treated following complaints about “ludicrous” questioning from immigration officials.

The Evangelical Alliance, one of the most powerful Christian groups in the UK, has said it wants a series of reforms to the way Christian converts seeking asylum on religious grounds are treated by the immigration authorities. The Alliance has gathered evidence in a report of what it claims is inappropriate questioning, a lack of knowledge about which countries are dangerous for Christian converts and translation problems for such asylum seekers.

The document has been released as campaigners battle to save a 29-year-old Iranian woman and Christian convert named only as Samar from being deported to her home country, where it is feared that she will be stoned to death. According to the findings of the report, one Christian asylum seeker from Cardiff, Wales, was asked, “How do you cook a turkey for Christmas?” as evidence of religious conversion.

Other questions have included, “Identify the forbidden fruit eaten by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden” – although it is commonly assumed this is an apple, the Bible does not name the fruit, “Name the thieves crucified on either side of Jesus” – they are not named in the Bible, and “What will happen around the world in the second coming?”

An Afghan Christian convert was told that he “demonstrated a limited knowledge of Christian beliefs” when questioned at interview in spite of listing all 12 of the disciples by name. The only question he could not answer was naming the period before Christmas as Advent.

An Iranian woman convert who had fled her home country to join her husband had her application turned down and was told that the judge in the case did not believe she was Christian. She was asked questions such as, “What does the Christmas tree symbolise?” and “How many books are in the Bible?”

The report said it was unsafe for Christians to proselytise in a number of countries and even being known as a Christian convert can result in imprisonment or worse, the Alliance said. The countries of most concern, according to the Alliance, are Iran and Afghanistan.

Evangelical Alliance parliamentary officer Gareth Wallace said: “The stories we were told of Christian asylum seekers and their experience of the asylum process give an indication of the fear and trepidation with which they apply for asylum in the UK, knowing that admitting conversion will result in imprisonment or the death penalty in countries like Iran and Afghanistan.

“Many are new Christians, with limited knowledge of the Bible and even less of British religious tradition. Given the stress they are under, it is entirely understandable that they struggle to give the right answer when met with a long list of questions – in some cases fifty or sixty – about their new Christian faith.”

Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes said: “When interviewing those who have converted from one faith to another immigration caseworkers need to be as sensitive about faith as they are about gender. This is an issue that won’t go away and MPs need to be better informed on all its implications, and I am sure this report will be a useful aid.”