abandoning Islam and converting to Christianity, according to a report obtained by BosNewsLife.
The 29-year-old woman, who has been identified as Samar, is among several converts facing deportation to dangerous countries, said the Evangelical Alliance UK (EA), an umbrella group representing over one million British evangelical Christians.
Samar, who converted to Christianity before leaving Iran, says a death warrant for her has been issued in her homeland, the EA added. If the deportation goes ahead, the UK may face questions under European Union guidelines which forbid the extradition of convicted persons to countries where they face the death penalty. As recent as Friday, July 13, the EU specifically condemned Iran for stoning to death a man sentenced for adultery, saying the execution went against earlier Iranian pledges to curtail the practice.
"I am disappointed and devastated that Iran has backtracked from its declared moratorium on stoning by recently carrying out an execution by this horrendous method," EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in a statement.
An Iranian judiciary spokesperson reportedly confirmed the recent stoning of Jafar Kiani in a village near the western city of Takestan, but added his partner had been "given a stay of execution" while her case was reviewed.
With Christian convert Samar apparently facing a similar fate, the EA said her church in the southern town and tourist resort of Bournemouth and Parliamentarian Tobias Ellwood campaigned on her behalf. However, "despite a temporary reprieve on Friday, immigration officers have again issued her with deportation papers to return to Iran tomorrow," Wednesday, July 18, the group added.
Immigration officials could not be reached for comment.
In its report 'Alltogether for Asylum Justice--Asylum seekers' conversion to Christianity' published Tuesday, July 17, the EA made clear that Samar's case is no exception.
"A lack of understanding of conversion, translation problems and ludicrous questioning by Home Office staff or the judiciary has led to asylum seekers being refused asylum from dangerous home countries."
One asylum seeker allegedly told the EA that Home Office interviewers asked her "to prove" her Christianity "by describing how to cook a turkey for Christmas." Inadequate country information "also leads to people being sent home because the country is wrongly seen as safe for converts," the EA's report said.
Although the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has reportedly confirmed that conversion from Islam to another religion in Iran will lead to execution for a man or at least to life imprisonment for a woman, "all appeals against Samar ’s deportation have been refused," the EA claimed.
In a statement obtained by BosNewsLife Pastor John Dallison, who traveled to Downing Street Tuesday, July 17, to hand over a 1,000-name petition on behalf of Samar, said, "This is a key issue which only really came home to us when we encountered it personally with Samar. She is a committed Christian and I baptized her. It is so important that immigration officials better understand the issues around religious conversion so that nobody has to go through what Samar has gone through again."
The EA hoped its report, compiled from evidence from translators, pastors, asylum seekers and transcripts of asylum interviews and legal appeals, will help to prevent the deportations of Samar and other Christian concerts facing persecution at home.
The report also includes a survey of Alliance members, more than 90 percent of whom said a sample of questions asked of asylum seekers could not prove their faith. The EA said its report recommends "that caseworkers and adjudicators are given training in the Christian faith and understand that conversion is a complex decision, which does not necessarily result in detailed Biblical or doctrinal knowledge."
Evangelical Alliance Parliamentary Officer Gareth Wallace said that the "stories we were told of Christian asylum seekers and their experience of the asylum process give an indication of the fear and trepidation with which they apply for asylum in the UK...[They[ know that admitting conversion will result in imprisonment or the death penalty in countries like Iran and Afghanistan."
Wallace told BosNewsLife in a statement that, "many are new Christians, with limited knowledge of the Bible and even less of British religious tradition. Given the stress they are under, it is entirely understandable that they struggle to give the right answer when met with a long list of questions – in some cases fifty or sixty – about their new Christian faith."
British Parliamentarian Simon Hughes, who recently attended a symposium on Christian persecution, said it was crucial that, “When interviewing those who have converted from one faith to another immigration caseworkers need to be as sensitive about faith as they are about gender. This is an issue that won’t go away and Members of Parliament need to be better informed on all its implications and I am sure this report will be a useful aid."
The United Kingdom is not the only European Union nation facing controversy surrounding the way it treats Christian converts from Iran. The Netherlands and Germany have also been criticized for planning deportations of Christian converts back to Iran which in some cases, only at the last moment, was prevented. (With additional reporting by BosNewsLife Senior Special Correspondent Eric Leijenaar reporting from the Netherlands and BosNewsLife Chief International Correspondent Stefan J. Bos at BosNewsLife News Center).
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