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Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash
Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash
World News

Asylum seekers requesting baptism 'melt away' when asked to attend church: Ex priest gives asylum evidence to MP's

by Lydia Davies

A former Church of England priest, Matthew Firth, has shed light on a concerning trend of asylum seekers seeking baptism, only to “melt away” when asked to become involved in the church community first.

Firth, who served as a priest at St Cuthbert’s in Darlington from 2018 to 2020, testified before the Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday 12th March, revealing his experience with groups of asylum seekers expressing interest in converting to Christianity.

Firth described encountering "significant groups" of asylum seekers, primarily from Iran and Syria, being presented for baptism.

“It was a large number of young male asylum seekers, almost in a cohort” he said.

Concerns grew as Firth noticed a discrepancy between the number of asylum seekers being brought forward for baptism and the actual number of baptisms occurring.

He attributed the decline in numbers to the implementation of a more rigorous process, which required individuals to engage with the church community before undergoing baptism.

“I started to look into it a bit further” he said.

“At a time six or seven people [were] brought to me by people saying these people need baptism

“You try to press a pause button which is to make sure that people are requested to come to church, start getting involved and attending church regularly.

“That was the thing that kind of made the numbers fall off a cliff in a sense, because those people melted away really.

“They were not really wanting to get involved in the life of the church so much after I requested them to do so”.

When questioned on who brought the asylum seekers to him, Mr Firth said: “There was a particular individual who I think had received right to remain in the UK through the asylum application system.

“But I think this particular individual didn’t want baptism but was bringing lots of people who this individual said need to be baptised".

The revelation comes amidst ongoing debates surrounding asylum and immigration policies, particularly in light of recent high-profile cases such as that of Abdul Ezedi, who successfully challenged his asylum refusal after converting to Christianity and then went on to attack a woman in Clapham, London.


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