'We are seeing genuine conversions,' says church leader

By Christian Today |
Bible reading
Rod Long |Unsplash
Contrary to suggestions in the media, the leader of a UK evangelical church network has said there has not been any "significant influx" of asylum seekers turning to the Christian faith. 

The question of conversion claims by asylum seekers has come to the fore after last week's acid attack in Clapham. The suspect, Abdul Ezedi, was granted asylum after claiming to have converted to Christianity.

The attack led to Suella Braverman writing in The Telegraph that during her time as home secretary she "became aware of churches around the country facilitating industrial-scale bogus asylum claims".

The Church has been forced to respond to accusations from politicians that it is helping asylum seekers game the asylum system with fake conversion claims. 

Affinity leader, Graham Nicholls, writing in a blog for the church network's website, admitted it was a "challenging area" and said it was important for church leaders to be discerning and act with "integrity and wisdom".

While there have been instances of some people "faking it", other experiences of conversion among foreigners have been "genuine", he insisted.

"Churches do not run the asylum system and it is not for us to decide whether it is right for any individual to stay here. Our duty as church leaders is to address this matter with both compassion and a commitment to truth, guided by the principles embodied by Christ," he said. 

"Contrary to claims of widespread abuse, our personal experiences with asylum seekers seeking refuge in Christianity have not revealed a significant influx.

"However, I do know of situations where there have been conversions from people coming from other countries with sincere spiritual hunger who are now living well as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ." 

Nicholls said it was important for church leaders to demonstrate "sympathy rather than cynicism" towards people coming to them for help, and that they should "extend compassion" to anyone showing a "sincere" interest in the Christian faith, especially those for whom such an interest puts them in danger.

He admitted there was a need for "heightened vigilance" and that church leaders should look out for "red flags", but he insisted this was true for all people showing an interest in the Christian faith.

"Yet – just as we should for anyone saying they are Christians – we recognise the importance of discernment. It is our duty to test the authenticity of individuals' beliefs and observe how they live out their new faith. Sadly, in some cases, we may have decided that for whatever reason they are 'faking it'," he said. 

"In certain contexts, we acknowledge the need for heightened vigilance, recognising potential 'red flags' that may suggest insincerity.

"We love heartfelt conversions to Christ from all religions and none, and we are dedicated to providing a welcoming environment for those genuinely at risk in their home countries. However, we are also committed to acting with integrity and wisdom. Pray for all Christian leaders as they navigate this challenging area."

Originally published by Christian Today