Afghan convert to Christianity will not be deported

12 July 2019

Officials overturned their decision to deport him because his faith was unproven

PAUL HILL

Pastor Ehlers (centre of back row, with beard and glasses), with the congregation of Christ Lutheran Church, Orpington, in Kent

Pastor Ehlers (centre of back row, with beard and glasses), with the congregation of Christ Lutheran Church, Orpington, in Kent

A TEENAGE Afghan refugee who converted to Christianity has won his fight to stay in Britain after immigration officials overturned their decision to deport him because his faith was unproven.

At first, the Home Office rejected Jawid Ahmadi’s case, despite his baptism certificate and letters of support from his pastor, church elders, and the congregation at the Christ Lutheran Church in Orpington, Kent. But last week, the 19-year-old, who fled to the UK after seeing his brother murdered by the Taliban, was told that he could stay.

Mr Ahmadi was 16 when he stowed away in the boot of a car to enter Britain, and was placed with foster parents in Orpington. “He just wandered through the church door one day,” the Pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, the Revd Jon Ehlers, who is also chairman of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England, said. “We are probably the closest church to where he was living. He expressed an interest in Christianity; so I continued to meet with him. His English was not great; so we got a Dari Bible as an app on his phone and a Dari translation of the catechism; so we used those and worked together. Now we carry on conversations in English quite well.

“His faith evolved through regular attendance at church, where he has been helping out wherever he can. I don’t believe his Muslim faith was that strong when he arrived, it was fairly nominal; he said he prayed when it was expected of him.

“The suggestion that he had not shown his Christian faith was the thing we found the most difficult to believe. That someone could make that judgement in so little time after we had been with him for two-and-a-half years, and seen and heard what he said and does. How can someone make that decision in two hours? It was frustrating; so we were pretty pleased when the decision came through.

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“I hope our folks have been able to encourage, support, and uplift him. The community here is predominantly white, upper-middle class, mainly Brexiteers, tough on immigration, but they have taken him to their hearts. When he first came through the door, I did wonder ‘How are they going to handle this?’, but they really warmed to him. How could they not? He has got a lovely smile and a great temperament. Folk have understood that this is a great example of what discipleship is all about.”

Mr Ahmadi told The Times: “They are very good people; they are like my family. After church every Sunday, we have tea, coffee, and biscuits, talking and chatting. When I’m there I feel very happy.”

He is now considering his future. He has been studying plumbing at Bromley College. “His aspirations are simply to get a good education, find a job and a wife, have children, and just be a regular citizen, living quietly and happily,” Mr Ehlers said.

Asylum applications training. In May, the Church Times reported on the Home Office’s decision to use clergy to train caseworkers in handling asylum applications that cite religious conversion and persecution (News, 17 May). It follows reports in March that an unnamed Iranian’s application had been rejected on the basis that their claim to have converted from Islam to Christianity because it was a “peaceful” faith was “inconsistent” with passages of the Bible (News, 22 March). The training has been a year in development with the support of Church House, Westminster, and other faith groups.

Read comment on how the faith of asylum seeks should be tested

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