Muslim asylum seekers get baptized 'to stay in Britain,' says report

(Photo: Ecumenical News / Peter Kenny)Iranian dissident Marina Nemat testifies during a side event at the United Nations in Geneva on October 30, 2014

Hundreds of Muslims have had their claims accepted as asylum seekers in Britain after converting to Christianity, says a newspaper report.

The converts, who are mainly from Iran, argue that their new faith would expose them to persecution, including the death penalty, if they were returned to their home country, The Sunday Times (London) reported June 12.

The report said senior clerics in the Church of England said last week that some asylum seekers might be getting baptized to take advantage of a loophole in the system.

The Anglican Dean of Liverpool, Rev. Pete Wilcox, whose cathedral has baptized about 200 asylum seekers in the past four years, said: "Mixed motives are not unheard of" when it comes to asylum seekers choosing to be baptized."

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Wilcox said, "Holding a baptism certificate significantly enhances the strength" of asylum claims.

He told The Times: "Holding a baptism certificate significantly enhances the strength of their claim for asylum. Once you are a baptized Christian it is really not conceivable that you would be deported to a Muslim country."

The newspaper said that in a number of countries conversion to Christianity is punishable by harsh penalties, including the death penalty and what it does not say is the crime of apostasy can earn capital punishment in some nations..

"God alone knows the person's heart and we try to be consistent about that and not to set the bar at one height for middle-class aspiring parents seeking the best for the education of their children and the bar at another height for converts from Islam looking for asylum," Wilcox said.

"Refuse Jemima baptism and she goes to school somewhere else. Refuse Mohammed baptism and he gets deported."

The newspaper cited a number of churches across England which said they had also baptized hundreds of Muslims over the past few years.

Rev. Lionel Canter, pastor of the Liverpool Iranian Church, part of the Elim Pentecostal movement, said around 300 Muslims had been baptized since 2010.

Of these a third of whom used their baptism to gain asylum in the UK.

"I can understand people questioning how genuine it is because they can be integral to being able to stay in the country. It's a valid question," said Carter.

Wilcox said that an individual cannot simply turn up for a baptism service and the cathedral holds a mandatory five-week course for candidates, and they are expected to attend services.

A spokesman for the Home Office said: "A document such as a baptism certificate would not automatically lead to a conversion claim being accepted as genuine but is given appropriate weight when considering all the evidence."

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