Many individuals and organizations are outraged by the number of Christian refugees being denied asylum in the United Kingdom for failing governement-administered Bible trivia tests to prove the authenticity of their faith.
BBC News reported Sunday that the All Party Parliamentary Group on Religious Freedom is defending these refugees, alleging that asking questions such as “What are the 10 Commandments?” is not an accurate way to determine what someone truly believes.
Iraqi Christians leave Saint-Joseph church after a mass July 20, 2014 in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Hundreds of Christian families have fled their homes in Mosul due to a jihadist ultimatum threatening their community's centuries-old presence in the northern Iraqi city. (AFP / Safin Hamed/Getty Images)
The Rev. Mark Miller, a British pastor who has a large congregation of Iranian converts, has offered the Home Office, which operates the asylum system, advice on how to evaluate these claims of conversion.
Miller told the BBC that many in his congregation first encountered the faith in secret meetings in private home churches.
"The asylum assessors have a real challenge on their hands," he said. "If you've come to faith in an underground house church, where you've been able to borrow a New Testament for a week and have encountered the risen Lord Jesus, you're not going to know when the date of Pentecost is.”
"They should be trying to understand the difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge," Miller added.
One man the BBC identified as Mohammed, an Iranian who was baptized in Greece after fleeing persecution back home, said that when he applied for asylum in the U.K., his application was denied because he failed his interview.
"One question they asked me was very strange — what color was the cover of the Bible?” he said. "I knew there were different colors. The one I had was red. They asked me questions I was not able to answer — for example, what are the 10 Commandments? I could not name them all from memory."
According to the interview guidance provided to the Home Office, caseworkers are supposed to ask asylum-seekers only the most "basic knowledge questions" about the faith they claim.
The British Pakistani Christian Association has called asylum cases in the U.K. into question, claiming in a report that many Christian converts are being rejected on "very spurious grounds."
"The problem with those questions is that if you are not genuine you can learn the answers, and if you are genuine, you may not know the answers,” Baroness Berridge, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Religious Freedom, said, according to the BPCA.
"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," Berridge explained. “You might not know of Lent, which is not a common concept in Iran.”
"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,” she added.
The BPCA reported that Pakistani Christians make up fewer than 120 applicants for asylum in the U.K. each year, and less than 50 percent of these applicants are granted asylum.