The Home Office is facing more questions about its attitude towards Christian asylum seekers amid claims it rejected another Iranian man’s application to move to Britain by telling him, ‘your belief in Jesus is half-hearted’.
There was outrage this week after it emerged a convert was refused asylum in 2016 because an official said his conversion from Islam was ‘inconsistent’ with his suggestion Christianity was a peaceful religion – by highlighting violent passages from the Bible.
Now immigration caseworker Nathan Stevens, who exposed the first case, has said another Iranian he worked with had his application rejected after an official criticised him for admitting Jesus could not protect him from his country’s tyrannical regime.
Immigration caseworker Nathan Stevens has revealed a second case of an Iranian Christian convert who had his asylum claim rejected after a Home Office official apparently questioned his faith
Mr Stevens posted a comment from the refusal on Twitter, which 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 first refusal sparked fury from immigration campaigners and the Church of England when it was first reported last week.
In the refusal letter six passages are listed and a claim is made that Revelations is filled with ‘images of revenge, destruction, death and violence.’
Mr Stevens posted excerpts from the letter on Twitter and said he was ‘genuinely shocked’ to read such an ‘unbelievably offensive diatribe.’
He added: ‘Whatever your views on faith, how can a government official arbitrarily pick bits out of a holy book and then use them to trash someone’s heartfelt reason for coming to a personal decision to follow another faith.’
Officials appear to have used six examples taken from the Bible Gateway – a searchable online bible, and one of the world’s most well-utilised Christian websites.
The refusal letter also quotes parts of The Book of Leviticus from the Old Testament.
The full statement below the verses says: ‘These examples are inconsistent with your claim that you converted to Christianity after discovering it is a ‘peaceful religion, as opposed to Islam which contains violence, rage and revenge.’
Mr Stevens added on Twitter that his client will be appealing the decision and he will be complaining to the Home Office.
It comes after Mr Stevens revealed the case of another man who was criticised for suggesting Christianity was a religion of peace
After quoting another bible package the letter says ‘These examples are inconsistent with your claim that you converted to Christianity after discovering it is a ‘peaceful’ religion, as opposed to Islam which contains violence rage and revenge’
Social media users were so shocked by the content of the letter a number of them did not even believe it was real – with the decision being described as ‘gobsmacking’ and ‘unreal.’
The letter led Paul Butler, the Bishop of Durham, to call for an overhaul of the ethos of the Home Office and said there was a problem of ‘religious literacy’ among staff.
He said: ‘I am extremely concerned that a Government department could determine the future of another human being based on such a profound misunderstanding of the texts and practices of faith communities.
To use extracts from the Book of Revelation to argue that Christianity is a violent religion is like arguing that a Government report on the impact of Climate Change is advocating drought and flooding.
‘It is good that the Home Office has recognised that this decision is inconsistent with its policies and that its staff need better training.
‘But the fact that these comments were made at all suggests that the problem goes deeper than a lack of religious literacy among individual civil servants and indicates that the management structures and ethos of the Home Office, when dealing with cases with a religious dimension, need serious overhaul.’
He added: ‘I look forward to hearing what changes in training and practice follow from this worrying example.
‘The Church of England has regularly raised the issue of the religious literacy of staff at all levels within the Home Office.
‘This fresh case shows just how radically the Home Office needs to change in its understanding of all religious beliefs.’
The first Iranian national claimed asylum in 2016, but was turned down, with Home Office (pictured) officials saying his conversion from Islam was ‘inconsistent’ with his claim Christianity was a peaceful religion – by highlighting violent passages from the bible
Immigration caseworker Nathan Stevens posted excerpts from the first letter on Twitter and said he was ‘genuinely shocked’ to read such an ‘unbelievably offensive diatribe’
Legal expert Conor James McKinney, deputy editor of website Free Movement, told Mail Online: ‘Immigration lawyers often speak of a ‘culture of disbelief’ among the officials that make these life-or-death asylum decisions.
‘This case seems to be an extreme example of an individual official manufacturing a reason to refuse an asylum claim, and the Home Office acknowledges that it was out of line, but those working with asylum seekers do report horror stories almost as bad on a regular basis.’
Stephen Evans, chief executive of the National Secular Society told the Independent it was ‘wholly inappropriate’ for the Home Office to use ‘theological justifications for refusing asylum applications’.
He added: ‘Decisions on the merits of an asylum appeal should be based on an assessment of the facts at hand – and not on the state’s interpretation of any given religion. It’s not the role of the Home Office to play theologian.’
A Home Office spokesman said about the first case: ‘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.’