Briefing: Church leaders, asylum seekers and conversions in Britain

Church leaders have hit back at allegations that they are naively backing fraudulent asylum claims by accepting the validity of fake conversions. In a Religion Media Centre briefing, The Bishop of Chelmsford, Guli Francis-Dehqani said wisdom and discernment needed to be applied to the conversion process and it should not be seen as a ticket to get someone magically through the asylum process. There was no “cast-iron set of criteria to be 100 per cent sure of what’s going on in people’s hearts and minds”.

The Tory MP Tim Loughton, who asked in the Commons whether the Archbishop of Canterbury was effectively “scamming the taxpayer” over fake asylum claims, told the briefing that the Church of England’s guidance should encourage clergy to test the validity of conversions. And he believed the smaller Christian groups and churches needed to create their own guidelines for work with asylum seekers, in association with the Home Office.

Ruth Peacock hosted this discussion, which also included: Emily Shepherd, CEO of the Welcome Churches Network; Pastor Graham Nicholls, director of the Affinity network of evangelical churches; Krish Kandiah, founder and CEO of The Sanctuary Foundation, Gulwali Passarlay, former asylum seeker; and the Rev Jonathan Keyworth, formerly Heywood Baptist church, Manchester, which has a large Iranian congregation.

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