In Good Faith: Swedish ‘Christianity Exams’ for Refugees Spark Outrage

CC0 / Pixabay /

CC0 / Pixabay /

Sputniknews – 17/5/17

Sweden’s Migration Board has landed in hot water for its habit of testing religious asylum seekers’ knowledge of Christianity by way of quizzes. This practice sent shockwaves through Sweden’s mostly secular society and was condemned as “absurd” and “ridiculous.”

Asylum seekers who converted to Christianity and were seeking asylum due to religious persecution they were facing in their home countries have been exposed to tricky quizzes on aspects of the Christian faith, Swedish national broadcaster SVT reported. According to SVT, the religious quizzes involve such technicalities the number of parts to the New Testament or the difference between various branches of Christianity, such as Orthodoxy and Protestantism.

This practice was severely rebuked by Swedish lawyers and members of the clergy, who maintained it rather checked one’s technical knowledge than faith. However, the accuracy of asylum seekers’ responses could be decisive for the Migration Board’s verdict.

“I believe it’s horrible. I have repeatedly had to interrupt administrators who ask these questions as irrelevant and far too complicated,” lawyer Serpil Güngör told SVT.

By his own admission, he advised his clients to study the Bible before interviews with the Migration Board. Additionally, some Swedish parishes reportedly began preparing manuals and fact books to help the asylum seekers, a deacon told SVT on condition of anonymity. Swedish Church officials were skeptical about the “Christianity quizzes” and question the Migration Board’s own competence about religious issues.

“Exactly what knowledge does the Migration Board itself have about religion and faith?” Hans-Erik Nordin, the Bishop of the Diocese of Strängnäs, asked rhetorically in an interview with the Christian newspaper Dagen.

Refugees Welcome Sweden, an NGO working for open migration policies in Sweden, slammed the Migration Board’s religious interrogations on Twitter, claiming they only tested Bible knowledge, not faith.

The news of the religious quizzes plunged Swedish social media into a shock, with many users claiming the practice to be “bizarre” and incongruous with Sweden’s profile as a secular country.

Nevertheless, the Migration Board defended its religious interviews, claiming them to be only a part of the overall assessment routine. By their own admission, the Swedish immigration officials also took into consideration applicants’ explanation why they had converted to Christianity in the first place and how they exercised their faith. According to Migration Board Deputy Legal Director Carl Bexelius, it was a “reasonable demand” to expect “some knowledge of the Bible” from an applicant.

In late 2016, Sweden was announced to become the first European nation to launch the app OCFEP (“One Change for Every Person”) in a bid to spread the Gospel knowledge to “previously unreached” or “underreached” groups, such as refugees, Dagen reported.

Earlier this year, however, Annika Beckung, former Swedish Church refugee coordinator in the city of Borås, pointed out that becoming a Christian was not a shortcut to asylum, citing numerous cases of rejection, Dagen reported.

In February, Dagen reported that at least 565 people have converted to Christianity via the Church of Sweden since 2013. Many of the fresh converts have been by their own admission subjected to pressure and threats from former brothers in faith.