The Church of England needs to wise up to fake conversions

The Anglican church has become an unwitting cog in the illegal-migration industry.

Fraser Myers

Fraser Myers
Deputy editor

Topics Politics UK

Why was Adbul Ezedi, the suspect in last week’s horrific alkali attack in south London, allowed to roam the streets of Britain? After all, this was a man who was rejected for asylum – twice – before being convicted of sexual assault. We now know that he was later granted leave to remain mainly because he had ‘converted’ to Christianity. In this, he had the backing of at least two churches, one Baptist and one Catholic, who vouched for his supposedly unwavering Christian faith to the authorities. This made his deportation to Afghanistan nigh-on impossible, as he would have been deemed at risk of persecution as a religious minority. In reality, in the words of a friend, it seems Ezedi remained a ‘good Muslim’ all along. He was recently spotted buying halal meat.

While not implicated in Ezedi’s case, the Church of England is now under enormous pressure to account for a broader documented rise in sham conversions among asylum seekers. Indeed, this appears to be more than just a case of a few naive vicars, excited to see the expansion of their flocks. Official Church of England guidance on supporting asylum seekers, unearthed by the Express at the weekend, suggests this is an institutional problem.

The 2017 guidance spells out the various duties the clergy have in relation to asylum seekers. It goes far beyond the kind of charitable work most of us would expect the church to do for new arrivals to the UK – such as providing shelter, food and moral support. It details how clergy can mount a ‘personal campaign’ on behalf of asylum seekers whose claims have been rejected. It even states explicitly that, ‘If the person has converted to Christianity after a previous refusal, that may be the basis of a fresh [asylum] claim’.

On the question of sham conversions, there is just one sentence in the guidance telling clergy to be discerning – to be ‘wise as serpents and innocent as doves’. But it mostly denies there is any problem at all. It even provides a list of excuses as to why new converts might suddenly stop turning up to church services after they’ve had their all-important baptism.

Instead, the guidance says that priests should be wary of the ‘anti-immigration rhetoric’ in newspaper reports on fake converts. It warns that such stories are designed to support ‘a broader political narrative about British identity, rights and values’. It even blames the ‘EU referendum’ for stirring up this allegedly anti-migrant mood.

This guidance shows that the church is taking an expressly political position on migration. It sees enforcing the UK’s borders as inherently ‘problematic’. It casts suspicion on those who are worried about illegal migrants gaming the system.

Such views might seem surprising in the Church of England, of all places. After all, the church was once a thoroughly conservative institution. It was even thought of as the Tory Party at prayer. Yet today, many of its new commandments sound just like they have been lifted from the pages of the Guardian.

Like so many other British institutions, the Church of England has allowed itself to be consumed by the culture war – and it has started to sing from the same hymn sheet as the rest of the woke elite. This is not just true of the migration debate. Take the trans issue. The Anglican church encourages the ‘unconditional affirmation’ of transgender identities. Its leaders are also open to adopting gender-neutral pronouns to describe the entity previously known as God, the Father.

Similarly, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, churches were ordered to ‘decolonise’ themselves by removing any statues and monuments with connections to slavery. These days, Church of England schools teach both trans ideology and critical race theory as if they were scripture.

With the church captured by wokeness, and institutionally suspicious of border controls, it is perhaps no wonder that sham conversions have been allowed to spiral – often with disastrous consequences. Adbul Ezedi’s case follows that of Emad al-Swealmeen, the Islamist terrorist who tried to blow up Liverpool Women’s Hospital in 2021. He, too, had failed twice to gain asylum and would likely have used his apparent conversion to Christianity in a third attempt.

Concerns about sham conversions have been raised for almost a decade now. Speaking in 2016, Reverend Pete Wilcox, then the dean of Liverpool, claimed his cathedral had baptised about 200 asylum seekers over a period of four years. He said he could not think of a single example of somebody who already had British citizenship converting from Islam to Christianity.

Now it has emerged that 40 of the 300 asylum seekers on the Bibby Stockholm, the government’s infamous migrant barge, are currently converting to Christianity. Incredibly, local church elder David Rees told the BBC that he is ‘confident’ they are all genuine Christians. ‘There’s no reason we would doubt these asylum seekers’, he said. Really? No reason at all?

While many ordinary parishioners might find the church’s woke turn baffling and irritating, this is starting to become a problem for us non-believers, too. Church leaders feel more emboldened than at any point in recent memory to impose their beliefs on the rest of society. Indeed, unelected bishops are increasingly flexing their muscles in the House of Lords – especially against the government’s migration policies, like the flagship Rwanda scheme. No doubt some priests think they have a God-given right to circumvent the asylum process.

Of course, we can’t lay all the problems of our asylum system at the feet of the Church of England. Nor should we expect priests to treat all would-be converts with suspicion. Certainly, the work lots of parishes do in integrating people who are seeking a better life is laudable. But the church cannot allow itself to become an unwitting cog in the illegal-migration industry.

Church leaders need to realise there are consequences to their credulity in the face of so many obviously phoney conversions. Helping people who show contempt for the asylum rules, like Ezedi and al-Swealmeen, will only undermine people’s generosity towards genuine refugees – and genuine converts.

The church can’t keep pretending there’s no problem to see here.

Fraser Myers is deputy editor at spiked and host of the spiked podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @FraserMyers.

Picture by: Metropolitan Police.

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Topics Politics UK


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