The U.K. Home Office said it would take a second look at an Iranian Christian's asylum claim after the department first denied the application because, they argued, Christianity is not a peaceful religion.
The department faced international criticism for attacking Christianity as a violent religion in a letter stating their reasons for denying the Christian convert's asylum application.
“The Home Office have agreed to withdraw their refusal and to reconsider our client’s asylum application, offering us a chance to submit further representations. A good start, but more change is needed,” the Iranian's caseworker, Nathan Stevens, tweeted on March 22.
Stevens added that he hopes “there will be real change though as it isn't all about this one case; there's a much wider problem to be addressed here.”
On his Twitter page, Stevens said that several years ago, in another asylum applicant's refusal letter, the Home Office attacked an applicant's faith in Jesus, saying: "You affirmed in your AIR that Jesus is your saviour, but then claimed that He would not be able to save you from the Iranian regime. It is therefore considered that you have no conviction in your faith and your belief in Jesus is half-hearted.”
Stevens posted photos of the rejection letter sent to the Christian convert asylum seeker in which the Home Office quoted verses from the Bible to argue that he converted from Islam to Christianity because he considered the latter a religion of peace.
“These examples are inconsistent with your claim that you converted to Christianity after discovering it's a ‘peaceful’ religion, as opposed to Islam which contains violence, rage and revenge,” the Home Office said, in part, in the letter Stevens publicly shared on March 19.
The rejection letter quoted a few verses from the Bible books of Exodus, Leviticus, Matthew and Revelation that contained violent imagery to justify their claim.
“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,” tweeted Stevens along with excerpts from the letter.
In response to the news, the Church of England denounced the reasoning of the Home Office, with Bishop Paul Butler, the lead Church of England Bishop in the House of Lords on immigration, asylum and refugees, expressing concern in a statement released last Friday.
“I am extremely concerned that a government department could determine the future of another human being based on such a profound misunderstanding of the texts and practices of faith communities,” Butler said, the Anglican Communion News Service reported.
“To use extracts from the book of Revelation to argue that Christianity is a violent religion is like arguing that a government report on the impact of climate change is advocating drought and flooding.”
Professor Paul Williams, chief executive of the England-based organization the Bible Society, also released a statement denouncing the rejection letter as taking verses from the Bible out of context.
“Taking individual verses out of context to ‘prove’ a point is not only naïve but, in this particular case, deeply disturbing,” said Williams.
“Whatever beliefs we hold, it is vital that we have adequate levels of biblical literacy — given the size of the global Christian community and the centrality of the Bible to western civilization.”
Williams added that his organization would be “happy to work with the Home office to support adequate levels of biblical literacy among their staff.”
In response to the backlash, the Home Office released a statement via email acknowledging that the letter was authentic, and claimed that it did not adequately represent their policies.
“This letter is not in accordance with our policy approach to claims based on religious persecution, including conversions to a particular faith,” stated the Home Office, The New York Times reported.