Christian converts seeking asylum in the United Kingdom are reportedly asked Bible trivia questions rather than being asked about their faith, something that is being deemed by some as unfair.
"One question they asked me was very strange - what colour was the cover of the Bible," an Iranian asylum seeker named Mohammed, whose application was rejected, told the BBC. "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 BBC, the guidance that caseworkers follow says they need not ask questions other than ones on basic knowledge. More specifically, the Home Office's Asylum Policy Instruction on assessing credibility and refugee status says that "caseworkers are not qualified to assess the accuracy or relevance of answers to more than the most basic knowledge questions." This system is deemed problematic since, as stated by Baroness Berridge, some genuine converts may not know basic Bible facts but some people who are not genuine may have learned them.
Berridge heads the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, which is behind the report.
"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," said the baroness.
Rev. Mark Miller has reportedly given suggestions to the Home Office on how to handle claims. Many members of his congregation in Stockton-on-Tees, which is composed of many Iranian converts, have had their first Christian experience in secret meetings, often in private homes.
"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," he said. "They should be trying to understand the difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge."
Miller further said that the caseworkers should ask questions that would help them understand why a person would turn their backs on the religion that they grew up in.
While many think that some converts only turn to Christianity as a means of getting asylum, Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association told the BBC that fake converts are rather rare because of the risk of getting persecuted within their own communities. However, he said those who are genuine converts receive little support.
"To know whether someone is a real believer or not, you have to look at the fruit in their lives," Mohammed said when asked what he would tell officials should he get a chance. "The fruit is love and humility... when people come here wounded and in fear and trembling, what they most need is to receive love."