Sweden’s Migration Agency is under fire for quizzing Christian asylum seekers on their knowledge of the Bible.
The Swedish Migration Agency asked questions about the Christian faith to individuals who had converted to Christianity and were seeking asylum on the grounds of religions persecution. Some of the questions included the number of parts to the New Testament and the difference between Protestant and Orthodox churches, according to Swedish broadcaster SVT.
The responses to the questions could affect whether applicants are granted asylum.
Lawyers and church representatives alike have criticized the migration agency for the practice, arguing that the questions test an individual’s technical knowledge rather than their faith.
Serpil Güngör, an attorney representing asylum seekers, told SVT that he strongly disagreed with the testing method.
“I think it’s terrible. I have repeatedly had to interrupt administrators who ask these questions because they are not relevant and are far too complicated,” Güngör said.
Güngör told SVT that he advises his clients to study the Bible carefully before their interview with migration officials. Some Swedish parishes have even started preparing handbooks of facts on Christianity to help asylum seekers study for the test.
A deacon of a Swedish church who has been working with Christian asylum seekers for years told SVT on condition of anonymity that he didn’t support the so-called Christianity quizzes.
“Migration Board tests the knowledge of Christianity, not faith,” he said.
Some of the asylum seekers converted to Christianity in their home country and fled because of persecution, while others wanted to leave Islam, according to SVT. Religious persecution can be put down as a reason when applying for asylum in Sweden.
The Swedish Migration Agency defended the way it conducts the interviews, arguing that it’s just one part of their overall assessment. The agency also considers factors such as the applicant’s explanation for why they became a Christian and how they practice their faith.
“It is a reasonable demand that the asylum applicant should show some knowledge of the Bible – this should come naturally, and isn’t something you need to study,” Carl Bexelius, deputy legal director at the Swedish Migration Agency, told SVT.
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