In Brief

Home Office uses violent Bible verses to deny Christian asylum

Refusal letter says the passages are ‘inconsistent’ with Iranian man’s claim to have converted to ‘peaceful’ religion

The Home Office has been criticised after rejecting an asylum seeker’s application by citing biblical verses to argue that Christianity is violence-filled religion.

The Iranian national, who claimed asylum in 2016, was told the bloodthirsty passages in the Bible were “inconsistent” with his claim to have converted to Christianity after discovering it was a “peaceful” faith.

Human rights groups claim that converts to Christianity face persecution in Iran, with hundreds targeted and arrested by the Islamic Republic because of their faith.

But in a letter rejecting the unnamed man’s application for asylum, a Home Office official quoted five violent passages from the Bible, “including sections from the Book of Leviticus and the Book of Revelations”, says the Daily Mirror.

The letter says that Revelations - the final book of the Bible - is “filled with imagery of revenge, destruction, death and violence”, and goes on to cite six excerpts.

“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 rage and revenge,” the official writes.

Caseworker Nathan Stevens posted the letter on Twitter, writing: “I’ve seen a lot over the years, but even I was genuinely shocked to read this unbelievably offensive diatribe being used to justify a refusal of asylum.”

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?”

When contacted by The Independent, the Home Office said that the letter was “not in accordance” with its policy approach to claims based on religious persecution, and that it was working to improve the training provided to decision makers on religious conversion.

Legal expert Conor James McKinney, deputy editor of immigration news and advice website Free Movement, told the newspaper that the case highlights the Home Office’s tendency to “come up with any reason they can to refuse asylum”.

“You can see from the text of the letter that the writer is trying to pick holes in the asylum seeker’s account of their conversion to Christianity and using the Bible verses as a tool to do that,” he said.

“The Home Office is notorious for coming up with any reason they can to refuse asylum and this looks like a particularly creative example, but not necessarily a systemic outbreak of anti-Christian sentiment in the department.”

Sarah Teather, UK director of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), said the letter was a “particularly outrageous example of the reckless and facetious approach of the Home Office to determining life-and-death asylum cases”.

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