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Asylum should be based on acts not facts

24 June 2016

QUIZZING converted Christian asylum-seekers on Bible trivia can “reveal much about the ignorance in the secular world of Christianity and the way it is observed,” the leader of the Iranian congregation at Liverpool Cathedral, the Revd Mohamed Eghtedarian, has said.

Mr Eghtedarian was responding to reports last week that asylum applications are being rejected because seekers who had converted can not answer “detailed factual questions” on the Bible, such as listing the Ten Commandments (News, 10 June).

“I understand a need for some method to assess a genuine faith claim but this has to be grounded in some level of expertise,” Mr Eghtedarian said. “Faith is not about assessing random facts or trivia from the Bible, it is about asking the question, ‘What does Jesus mean to you?’ and ‘How does that change your life?’”

Mr Eghtedarian, who was born into an Iranian Muslim family, came to Europe 20 years ago, converted to Christianity, and was initially refused asylum in the UK. After a time in a detention centre, however, he went on to study theology in Brighton, before embarking on a career in the media.

He was ordained a deacon at Liverpool Cathedral in June last year, and now leads Sepas, a Persian congregation.

“We hear of many of our Persian congregation members being asked at best misguided and at worst daft questions about faith. At Sepas we look at how people live their lives as part of the worshiping community,” he said.

“We are here to show them Christ and encourage them to become like Him as well as being a good citizen for the society nevertheless keeping their Persian heritage.”

He went on: “Our experience shows that currently the questions being asked are limited and can appear calculated to make people fall into a trap. We would like to see refugees being assessed by experts who can work towards an understanding of whether the individual’s claim of a living relationship with Jesus can be borne out by what they say and how they act.”

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