Home Office quotes ‘violent’ Bible verses out of context to deny an Iranian Christian asylum

The Home Office has refused entry to a converted Christian asylum seeker using Bible verses as its justification.

The Iranian national was turned down in 2016 after officials said that Christianity was not a ‘peaceful religion’. 

The man, who hasn’t been named, was sent the official letter which citied violent passages from Scripture to prove its point.  The letter uses passages including one from Leviticus which states: ‘You will pursue your enemies and they will fall by the sword before you.’

It also cites Matthew’s gospel, where Jesus states: ‘I came not to send peace, but a sword.’

The Home Office has responded by stating: ‘This letter is not in accordance with our policy approach to claims based on religious persecution, including conversions to a particular faith.’

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 civilisation

However, the government department has been severely criticised by lawyers and campaigners including the asylum seekers caseworker, Nathan Stevens, who took to Twitter to say:

‘Whatever your views on faith, how can a government official arbitrarily pick bits out of a holy book and then use them to trash someone's heartfelt reason for coming to a personal decision to follow another faith.'

'Bible Society, along with other organisations, is extremely concerned by the Home Office’s "reasons for refusal" letter sent to an Iranian Christian convert,' says Bible Society Chief Executive, Professor Paul Williams. 

'Whilst, we welcome the Home Office’s clarification that the letter is not in accordance with its policies and that better staff training is needed, the fact that such a letter was written at all points to a highly illiberal organisational culture and astonishing level of biblical illiteracy. Taking individual verses out of context to "prove" a point is not only naïve but, in this particular case, deeply disturbing. 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 civilisation.

We’d be happy to work with the Home office to support adequate levels of biblical literacy among their staff.’

Hear more on the story from Director of Theos, Liz Oldfield, on BBC 5 Live at 1hr47mins.

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