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Law & Religion UK

CofE riposte to Home Office on letter to Christian convert – updated

The Church of England has issued the following response to the Home Office concerning the asylum letter regarding an Iranian Christian convert. In its refusal of asylum, the Home Office had used quotations of violence in the Bible as evidence of bogus claim.

His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, has also commented on the Home Office response, and this is reproduced below.

Response to Home Office letter regarding Iranian asylum seeker


Speaking in response to the publication of an excerpt from a Home Office ‘reasons for refusal’ letter sent to a Christian convert who had applied for asylum The Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler 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.

“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.”

Notes for editors

The Bishop of Durham leads for the Bishops in the House of Lords on matters relating to immigration, asylum and refugees.

Comment from His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, on a Home Office response to an Iranian Asylum Seeker

Coptic Orthodox Church UK

Coptic Orthodox Church (Europe)

Media and Communications Office

Comment from His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, on a Home Office response to an Iranian Asylum Seeker

21 March 2019

It is with great concern that I read reports from various sources yesterday regarding a letter from the Home Office rejecting an Iranian asylum seeker, and convert to Christianity, based on, at best a complete and utter misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Christian Scripture, and at worst an intentional manipulation of the text to justify the rejection of this vulnerable individual.

Home Office process and procedure on asylum issues, especially pertaining to religious converts, has been a source of ongoing conversation with the Home Office for a number of years. Through our Asylum Advocacy Group, which I founded and convene, we are working with the Home Office on a training programme due to be implemented within the coming months for case workers which takes into account incidents such as these, and many more like it.

This particular incident needs thorough investigation because while it has been accepted by a spokesperson from the Home Office as ‘not in accordance with our policy’, it must be determined whether this is merely out of misunderstanding or a proactive attempt to adversely affect the application of someone whose life may very literally be at risk. It must also be ascertained as to whether religious discrimination is at work, as there is no place for partiality within a Government that seeks to promote equality, and abides by Article 18 of the Declaration of Human Rights among other agreements.

We have been told on numerous occasions that the Home Office is not even in a position to ask whether an employee, case worker or contractor has any religious affiliation at all. Taking this into consideration, it now is astounding that such brash comments about a person’s religious belief can be made by an employee or contractor of that same institution.

Since yesterday, other examples have also arisen of similar malpractices when it comes to misrepresenting Scripture and rejecting asylum claims on those grounds, and so I do hope that these are also looked at in their entirety, and not a single case in isolation.

I look forward to our ongoing work with the Home Office as I commend the faithful and professional practice of the vast majority of Home Office staff and contractors.

Finally we must realise the extent of these actions, and that they have a bearing on people of faith who are potentially vulnerable in their state of origin, and vulnerable here in Britain as asylum seekers, and for this we must take great care to ensure that such violations do not go undetected or untreated.


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