A number of recent refugees who converted to Christianity in the United Kingdom are protesting their denial for asylum, after authorities said they could not prove the authenticity of their Christian faith by answering basic Bible questions, such as reciting the 10 Commandments.
BBC News reported on Sunday that an all-party parliamentary group on international religious freedom is standing up for these converts, arguing that asking Bible trivia to prove one's faith is unfair and does not really determine what a person believes.
One man identified as Mohammed, an Iranian convert to Christianity, said that he applied for asylum in the U.K. after he fled persecution back home, but his application was denied after a failed interview.
"One question they asked me was very strange - what colour was the cover of the Bible," he said. "I knew there were different colours. The one I had was red. They asked me questions I was not able to answer – for example, what are the Ten Commandments. I could not name them all from memory."
According to the interview guidance, caseworkers are only required to ask the most "basic knowledge questions" to prove that an applicant really is running from persecution.
Baroness Berridge, who heads the parliamentary group behind the report, warned, however, that the system can easily be exploited, as answers can be memorized by anyone, while genuine people can forget facts and details.
"When the system did move on to ask about the lived reality of people's faith, we then found that caseworkers, who are making decisions which can be life or death for people, were not properly supported and trained properly," Berridge explained.
Various Christian churches across Europe have been reporting a growing number of Muslim refugees converting to Christianity, with mass baptisms taking place on several occasions; but there have been questions about how genuine the new converts are, and if they are not changing their religion simply to improve their chances of staying in Europe.
The British Pakistani Christian Association has spoken out on the asylum cases in the U.K., and said that many Christian converts are being ejected on "very spurious grounds."
"Our expertise is in the area of Pakistani Christians who make up less than 120 applicants for asylum in the U.K. each year. Less than 50% attain leave to remain in the U.K. on initial application and appeals yield little success," said Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the BPCA.
"This is largely due to the failure of the U.K. authorities to recognize Pakistan as a country in which Christians face persecution, despite 700 Christian girls being kidnapped, raped and forced into Islamic marriage every year, 4 major bomb attacks targeting Christians in 5 years, a dark history of mob attacks on Christian communities after false blasphemy charges to say the least," Chowdhry added.
Other cases of rejected asylum applications reportedly included individuals who were unable to detail the various books and chapters of the New Testament; an Indian Christian who did not know about the Catholic rule of abstinence on Fridays; and another Iranian who was asked to name the last book of the Bible, Revelation, with his correct answer in the Farsi language being misunderstood.
Berridge said that some applicants get their answers wrong simply because they have not been allowed to properly study the Bible:
"If you are someone who has become a Christian in Iran, Bibles are not freely available – and you would not necessarily know how many books there are in the Old Testament. You might not know of lent which is not a common concept in Iran."