An Iranian Muslim who converted to Christianity because it is the true religion of peace has had their application for asylum in the UK rejected because the Home Office didn’t believe the veracity of their conversion. In giving reasons for the rejection, the Home Office adduced various violent passages from the Bible as incontrovertible evidence that Christianity is not as peaceful a religion as the Iranian Christian claimed it to be, and this gap in their theological expository knowledge is, the Home Office avers, proof that their conversion was not genuine.
This is really quite extraordinary. It is almost so absurd has to be literally incredible, but this is the Home Office we’re talking about, so the revelation that asylum applications from Middle East Christians are assessed by religiously illiterate apparatchiks who google random proof texts from Scripture and use them to make life-and-death decisions perhaps ought to come as no surprise.
Here are excerpts from the letter of rejection:
So, because the Old Testament says that God will crush Israel’s enemies; and because Jesus said he came to bring a sword; and because the book of Revelation “is filled with imagery of revenge, destruction, death and violence”, Christianity is not, according to the Home Office (and so according to HM Government), a peaceful religion: Jesus cannot be the Prince of Peace because he said he came to bring a sword. Really. There is no apparent awareness of each passage’s Sitz im Leben and no understanding at all of the different literary genres in the Bible and how these might inform expository study and affect interpretation. These texts are all taken literally, verbatim, at face value: the Home Office assesses asylum applications from Middle East Christians with the hermeneutic approach of a biblical fundamentalist.
Less surprisingly, the letter continues with quotations from the Qur’an ostensibly showing that Islam is not a religion of violence. Again, there is no understanding of quranic development, Middle-Eastern culture or historical context: if the Qur’an says it, it is the Word of Allah (via Jibrail). What need abrogation? This is apparently the warped (not to say crass) religious mindset of the Home Office.
The decision relating to this particular Iranian Christian convert is being appealed by Nathan Stevens, a Christian immigration caseworker who specialises in immigration and asylum applications and appeals. On his Twitter account he describes himself: ‘Follower of Jesus, husband and Dad, huge sports fan and justice seeker.’ He has now (thankfully) brought this appalling injustice to the attention of the Church, and one hopes and expects that a few (arch)bishops might have urgent words with the Home Secretary Sajid Javid about this case and about their approach to Christian asylum seekers generally. How many persecuted Christians have been denied asylum in the UK – and potentially been sent back to torture or death – because theologically-shallow and religiously-witless assessors in the Home Office have set themselves up as judges and juries of spiritual truth?
Honestly, what is the point of the Foreign Office pledging to stem the persecution of Christians across the globe when the Home Office seems intent on dispatching them to certain persecution and martyrdom?