A number of Iranian Christians facing persecution for their faith back home have reportedly been denied asylum in Sweden, despite authorities being aware of the hardships awaiting them if they are returned to their homeland.
"The history books will say something pretty nasty about Sweden's policy in this matter in the future," Swedish immigration lawyer Gabriel Donner told CBN News.
A number of Iranian families are seeking protection in Sweden, which has been described as one of the most progressive countries in the world. However, the Swedish Immigration Board is rejecting their request despite knowing that the converts face arrest, torture and even death back home, reports have said.
"Islam teaches that every man who leaves Islam must be killed because that man is an apostate," said Reza Jabbari, one of the Iranian Christians seeking asylum.
"I thought, this should be a piece of cake. This man [Reza] has brought other Muslims to the Christian faith," expressed Cai Berger, his pastor.
Mohabat News described the stories of other Iranian Christians in a similar situation, such as Majid and Hamid Khosravi, who both converted to Christianity 10 years ago, but had to leave recently when they felt their safety was in danger.
The Immigration Board has apparently questioned the validity of the converts' Christian faith, accusing them of trying to scheme their way to asylum. But the senior pastor of the Iranian church in Stockholm has testified that the believers have served on the worship team at the church and contributed to Iranian Christian TV networks and websites
"When you apply for asylum you have to present your case," Donner explained. "If you claim to be a convert you need to show some evidence of having converted: certificate of baptism, membership in a congregation, or something else of that sort."
The lawyer said that because of the evidence required to prove that one is a convert, some asylum seekers are in danger of being denied protection.
"We have told our families in Iran that we are Christian now, and they have disowned us. So we don't have a family to return to. Our blood is now halal; it is holy for Muslims to kill us," said Ali Roshan and Mahtab Shafadi, who were denied asylum to Sweden with their young daughter.
Sweden is seen as one of the most secular countries in Europe - a 2012 Eurobarometer Poll found that 43 percent of the people consider themselves either agnostic or atheist, though the Lutheran Church still claims the most members, nominally at least.
The Scandinavian country also ranked as high as number 8 in the Human Development Index, and is one of only a dozen countries to fully recognize and perform same-sex marriages.
For the persecuted Christians seeking asylum, however, CBN argues that Sweden "has closed its eyes," and refuses to hear the plight of the families.
Swedish Pastor Bengt Sjoberg, who has worked on behalf of Christian asylum seekers facing deportation, said migration officials "are ignorant about religion."
He added that the advice a Swedish Migration Board official gave Iranian Christian families who were deported back home was that they should call the police if they face persecution. When pastor Sjoberg explained on the phone that sometimes it was the police who were doing the torturing, the official apparently hung up.