The Jesuit Refugee Service has accused the Home Office of demonstrating a “shocking illiteracy of Christianity” after it rejected an Iranian asylum seeker’s claim because he said that Christianity was a peaceful religion.
In its letter of response, posted on Twitter by his caseworker, Nathan Stevens, the Home Office quoted passages from the books of Leviticus and Revelation to demonstrate that Christianity is not a religion of peace. It also quoted Jesus, in Matthew 10, saying: “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
The letter read: “These examples are inconsistent with your claim that you converted to Christianity after discovering it was a ‘peaceful’ [sic] religion, as opposed to Islam which is contains violence rage [sic] and revenge.”
Sarah Teather, Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in the UK said: “This is a particularly outrageous example of the reckless and facetious approach of the Home Office to determining life and death asylum cases – they appear willing to distort any aspect of reality in order to turn down a claim.
“This case demonstrates the shocking illiteracy of Christianity within the Home Office. But the distortion of logic and reckless approach to asylum seeker’s lives is a common feature. Here at JRS, we routinely encounter cases where asylum has been refused on spurious grounds. Some of these cases require more legal knowledge to recognise than this bizarre misquoting of the Bible.
“As this instance gains public attention, we need to remember it reflects a systematic problem and a deeper mindset of disbelief within the Home Office, and is not just an anomaly that can be explained away.”
Mr Stevens said that the Home Office subsequently agreed to withdraw their refusal and to reconsider the man’s asylum application. He later released details of a second case, in which a Christian woman who fled Iran fearing execution had her asylum claim rejected because the Home Office considered her belief in Jesus to be “half-hearted”.
Her refusal letter read: “You affirmed in your AIR [Asylum Interview Record] that Jesus is your saviour, but then claimed that He would not be able to save you from the Iranian regime. It is therefore considered that you have no conviction in your faith and your belief in Jesus is half-hearted.”
The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, later told BBC Radio 4 that she believed her interviewer had been laughing at her as he asked “why Jesus didn't help you from the Iranian regime or Iranian authorities.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “This letter is not in accordance with our policy approach to claims based on religious persecution, including conversions to a particular faith.
“We continue to work closely with key partners, including the APPG on International Freedom of Religion and a range of faith groups, to improve our policy guidance and training provided to asylum decision-makers so that we approach claims involving religious conversion in the appropriate way.”