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Details of Clapham alkali attacker’s baptism revealed in court documents

28 March 2024

Creative Commons

Documents show that Mr Ezedi was baptised in June 2018 at Grange Road Baptist Church, Jarrow, pictured

Documents show that Mr Ezedi was baptised in June 2018 at Grange Road Baptist Church, Jarrow, pictured

THE perpetrator of the Clapham alkali attack, Abdul Ezedi, was baptised at a Baptist church in Jarrow, South Tyneside, before his successful asylum appeal, court documents have revealed.

Mr Ezedi was the subject of a manhunt after attacking a woman and two children in Clapham, south London, on 31 January (News, 9 February). His body was later found in the River Thames.

The woman who was attacked is reported to have lost the sight in one eye. She and her daughters are understood to be connected with a C of E church in the area.

During the investigation, it emerged that Mr Ezedi, who was an Afghan national, had been baptised, and that his conversion to Christianity was referred to in his asylum claim.

Now, court documents, released for the first time after an application from a group of media organisations, provide details of his baptism and how it was referred to in his asylum appeal.

According to reports, the documents show that Mr Ezedi was baptised in June 2018 at Grange Road Baptist Church, Jarrow. He had been attending the church since 2016.

A letter to the court from the former ministry-team leader at the church, the Revd Roy Merrin, states: “Abdul has attended an Alpha Course organised by the church and, as a result of him coming to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, has been baptised by total immersion.

“Abdul has established a good relationship with the other church members, and is always willing to help as required. Apart from that, Abdul has been ready to share his faith in Christ with non-Christians.

“I hope that this information will be of assistance, and I would support his application to remain in this country.”

The judge who heard Mr Ezedi’s appeal said in his judgment that “the most compelling evidence was that of the former Reverend Merrin.”

The court documents also contained a “safeguarding contract”, seemingly drawn up by the church in 2018 after Mr Ezedi was convicted of sexual assault and exposure, which stipulated that he had to be accompanied at services.

Mr Merrin has told media outlets that he has no comment to make about the issue.

Baptists Together told Sky News: “Baptists Together did not corporately support or sponsor Abdul Ezedi’s asylum application. A personal letter of support commenting solely on Abdul Ezedi’s observed faith journey was written by a retired Baptist minister.

“The safeguarding contract was a separate issue and was agreed between the church and Abdul Ezedi, with guidance from local and regional safeguarding leads using our national template document of the time.

“This was to show the church had sufficiently risk assessed Abdul Ezedi’s attendance at church, ensuring the safety of the congregation and considering if it was appropriate for him to attend.

“The Home Office make the final decision on asylum applications and have access to full criminal records data to enable them to do this.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “All asylum claims are carefully considered on their individual merits in accordance with the immigration rules. This means that religious conversions do not guarantee a grant of asylum.

“We have engaged with a wide range of stakeholders to help us to improve our policy guidance, training for asylum decision makers, and to ensure we approach claims involving religious conversion in the appropriate way.”

The initial reports that Mr Ezedi had been baptised, and that his conversion was referred to in his successful asylum claim, led to increased scrutiny of the part played by Christian organisations in asylum appeals.

In the aftermath of the incident, before it was known which denomination Mr Ezedi had been attached to, a Church House spokesperson said: “This is clearly a shocking and distressing incident, and our thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected by it.

“It is the role of the Home Office, and not the Church, to vet asylum-seekers and judge the merits of their individual cases.

Subsequently, a priest formerly in the C of E, the Revd Matthew Firth, alleged that there was a “conveyer belt” of bogus asylum claims. This was disputed the Rt Revd Paul Butler (News, 16 February), then Bishop of Durham.

Mr Firth’s claims were examined by a Parliamentary Select Committee earlier in March. He gave evidence that he had baptised seven potential asylum-seekers, and that others lost interest in baptism when he told them they would have to attend services on a regular basis (News, 12 March).

During the same hearing, the Minister for Legal Migration, Tom Pursglove, said that the Home Office had no evidence to suggest that there was widespread abuse of the system.

Representatives from the C of E, Roman Catholic Church, and Baptist Union were also called to give evidence.

The Baptist Union’s public-issues enabler, the Revd Steve Tinning, outlined the process that ordinarily someone seeking baptism would be expected to follow. This included regular attendance and a demonstrable understanding of the faith.

He also spoke of the abuse and threats received by a Baptist church in Weymouth, which is attended by asylum-seekers. He read an extract from an email received by the church, describing it as “treacherous”, and warning “Brace yourselves.”

After the hearing, the Bishop of Chelmsford, Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, told the Church Times: “I would encourage our churches to continue offering support and welcome, as we always have done, and as is our role in society, but also to be mindful of always being honest and truthful, and within the bounds of what is legal.”

Churches, she said, offered an environment in which refugees could be welcomed, helped to integrate, and supported, both practically and spiritually; but she emphasised that responsibility for judging asylum claims rested with the Home Office.

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