LONDON (Christian Examiner) – Refugees from North Africa and the Middle East who claim to be Christian must prove they are Christian if they wish to receive asylum in Great Britain, a new report on immigration in the country claims.
According to the report, purported converts to Christianity are being subjected to "Bible trivia" questions before they can receive the all-important asylum designation. They are asked about the Ten Commandments, books of the Bible, biblical personalities and important biblical festivals such as Pentecost.
The questions, however, may not be producing the intended result.
"While the law is clear that religious persecution constitutes grounds for asylum, assessment of religion based asylum applications is complex and challenging due to the inherently internal and personal nature of religion and belief," the report says.
"This is compounded by the fact that persecution on the basis of religion or belief encompasses a wide range of human rights violations and relates to complex dynamics of communal identities, politics, conflicts and radical organizations."
For that reason, the report claims, asking "detailed factual 'Bible trivia' questions" is "too simplistic a way to judge if an individual is, for example, a genuine convert. Furthermore anecdotal evidence has shown that some people are learning as much as they can so they can be prepared for the Home Office interview."
Muslims, Hindus and people of other faiths (or no faith) also seek asylum, though it is primarily Christians who seek it based on persecution in their countries of origin.
In recent years, churches all over the United Kingdom have seen a significantly higher than normal number of people seeking religious asylum.
"We are seeing numerous cases of individuals seeking asylum in the UK due to persecution based on their religious beliefs," the report said. "And the reality is that this trend will continue. The number of individuals seeking asylum on the grounds of religious persecution is not going to diminish in the coming years."
Evaluation of the religious claims of asylum seekers, while not perfect, will presumably last for years. As Geoff Gilbert, a law professor at Essex University, said, the screenings must continue (especially when no evidence of physical abuse is involved).
"It's important that religion is not ignored as grounds [for asylum] because it's a difficult issue," GIlbert said.