Sweden’s Bizarre Questions to Christian Asylum Seekers

mölk
Pastor Christian Mölk

by Christian Mölk, originally posted on his blog.

In 2015, 41,000 asylum-seeking Afghans came to Sweden. Many Christians opened their homes and churches and welcomed asylum seekers with open arms.

Many asylum seekers saw the love of the Christians, and they became part of the Christian community. In their desperate situation and dream of a new and better life far from war and poverty, they sought Jesus and found peace, forgiveness, and salvation.

Since a person who has left Islam cannot be deported to Afghanistan, the world’s second most dangerous country for Christians, the Swedish Migration Board needs to decide whether the converts are genuine Christians or not.

That pastors certify that the converts are genuine Christians, baptized, and active members of a congregation, is not enough to be regarded as genuine Christians.

The Swedish Migration Board say that: “A person who has left Islam cannot be deported to Afghanistan, there is a great risk of such a person returning”(Dagen 2019-01-23) and insist that no genuine converts are being deported (Swedish Radio 2019-02-14).

To determine whether a convert is a true Christian or not, the Swedish Migration Board asks questions that not even Swedish Christians grown up in Sunday School can answer.

The Swedish Migration Board claim that: “We should not do any knowledge research. It has happened, but then it must be reported because then there is an official who is doing wrong.” (Sändaren nr 4/2019)

The Swedish Migration Board also claim that: “Certain knowledge questions can be of significance for the overall assessment, for example if a person states that they have studied theology or worked as a priest or pastor.” (Dagen 2019-01-18)

But some of the questions are so bizarre that you almost get the impression that the Swedish Migration Board wants to deport converts whether they are genuine or not. So here I now publish some of the bizarre questions that the Swedish Migration Board ask converts to evaluate whether they are genuine Christians or not. Almost all of these converts were not believed by the Swedish Migration Board to be genuine Christians.

Those who the Swedish Migration Board does not consider to be genuine Christians are deported back to Afghanistan, the world’s second most dangerous country for Christians. When Sweden deport Christians to Afghanistan, Sweden violates religious freedom and human rights and deny these converts their statutory right to faith.

1) – 21 knowledge questions to one convert

Translation

“I (Investigator): Do you know what the Trinity is?
I: What do you think is the essence, most important, of Christianity?
I: What is your favorite feast in Christianity?

I: What is it in Christianity you believe in?

I: What is it that differentiates Islam from Christianity?

I: Do you have any favorite piece from the New Testament that appeals to you specifically?

I: What other sacred sacraments exist in Christianity?

I: You have told us that the church you belong to is Protestant, you can mention other congregations in Christianity?

I: What sets your branch apart from the ones you just mentioned?

I: What are the most important celebrations in Christianity?

I: What happened during Easter?

I: Who is the Holy Spirit?

I: What does Christianity say about life after death?

I: Why do you mission in Christianity?

I: How do you view fellowship within Christianity?

I: Did you feel that you had enough knowledge of Christianity before you were baptized?

I: How many disciples did Jesus have?

I: What was the name of the disciple who betrayed Jesus?

I: How do you worship God?

I: How did you celebrate Christmas?

I: How do you plan to celebrate Easter?”

My comment

The Swedish Migration Board claim that: “We should not do any knowledge research. It has happened, but then it must be reported because then there is an official who is doing wrong.”

In the above image you can clearly see that the Swedish Migration Board asks knowledge questions to converts.

2) – Knowledge questions to an illiterate

Translation

“You have also been asked to describe the main essence of Christianity and then only state that Jesus has changed your life and that you have now begun to believe in a new life. You have not been able to explain the fundamental differences between Islam and Christianity or what essentially separates the Pentecostal Church from the Swedish Lutheran Church. You have described Christianity as a peaceful religion and Islam as a violent religion but you have not reflected more deeply on the fact that there are also parts of the Bible that have a more violent character. This may be considered to be considerate in light of your information that you perceive Christianity as being very different from Islam in that particular regard. Furthermore, you have not been able to tell more about Easter than that it was the time when Jesus went away and came back. Even this part of your story appears to be detail-poor, especially in light of the fact that you state that this was the last feast you celebrated and you state that it is one of the most central festivals in Christianity. Even taking into account that you are illiterate, the Migration Board finds that your information is scant and that it is expected of you that you, regardless of your knowledge of Christianity,”

My comment

The Swedish Migration Board claim that: “Certain knowledge questions can be of significance for the overall assessment, for example, if a person states that they have studied theology or worked as a priest or pastor.

But here you can see clearly that they ask questions of knowledge to an illiterate.

It also happens to be the case that I know this convert and have myself baptized him. I can certify that he is a true believing Christian. In addition, I think he actually answers quite correctly based on how we as a Pentecostal church believe.

He has been persecuted by Muslims who wanted to force him back to Islam. But I have, on the basis of that, taught him to turn the other cheek and show love and forgiveness to those who persecute us. Christianity is a peaceful religion and he has correctly understood that.

He also cannot explain the differences between the Pentecostal Church and the Swedish Church. But of course I haven’t taught a lot about it, why would I do that? I have taught about Jesus and that He can give us a new life and a new hope.

In addition, when we Pentecostals celebrate Easter, we celebrate with food, joy and remember that Jesus died for us and arose again. We do not go through a lot of doctrines here and there, but celebrate with joy. So I think he has answered quite correctly also on that question.

3) – Is Jesus not enough?

Translation

“During the oral investigation at the Swedish Migration Board, you continue to talk only about Jesus, that you believe in Jesus and that you want to follow Jesus’ path. The Migration Board notes, however, that Christianity is much more than just Jesus, which the Migration Board also notes is a prophet, for example, in Islam.”

My Comment

This quote from the Swedish Migration Board is almost too bizarre to comment. In my view, Jesus IS Christianity. How come the Migration Board thinks they know more about Christianity than a Christian? And why do they compare to Islam??

4) – Salvation Experience

Translation

“The fact that there may have been a “salvation experience ” is one thing, but in order for a genuine religious conviction to be established with a person, in the Court’s view, time as such can in many cases be an important factor.”

My Comment

This quote is one of the few that are from a positive decision, where the Migration Court considers that a convert’s faith should be re-examined since it has now been some time since his “salvation experience”. His faith may have deepened and thus it is a “new circumstance” that the Court should investigate.

But at the same time, it reveals that the Migration Board does not consider that it is enough to be Saved in order to be considered a Christian.

5) – The Sword-verses

Translation

“Investigator (U): Have you discussed the sword-verses in the Bible?

Asylum seeker (S): No, I didn’t hear anything about this. When you mention these sword-verses. Maybe we’ve talked about that.

U: I’m talking about Matthew 10:34.

S: Can you tell me more about it?

U: That’s what I want to know from you.

S: I am a convert and have limited knowledge of Christianity.

U: Do you read the Bible yourself today?

S: Yes I do.

U: I understand that you have not read Matthew 10:34.

S: It may be that I have read it, but I cannot exactly name a particular verse or chapter.

U: I interpret that you haven’t read it.”

My Comment

There is nothing called the “sword-verses” in the Bible. However, there is a verse in the Qur’an (Surat at-Tawbah 9:5) called the “Sword Verse” (read more on Wikipedia).

My guess is that the investigator who asked the questions for this convert is Muslim. He / she seems to question why the convert chose Christianity with quotes like this:

– “Shouldn’t one find out what Islam is before leaving it?”

– “Then I do not understand why you are converting, why should you go from Islam to Christianity?”

By asking questions like this, the Swedish Migration Board seems to want to show that the Christianity is a religion that calls for violence, and converting from Islam to Christianity based on your belief that Islam is violent and Christianity is peaceful thus shows that you are not a genuine convert. The irony in the context is that the meaning of these verses is that you may be separated from your family because of your faith in Jesus. Which is exactly what is happening to many converts.

And finally, if you hadn’t read this and were suddenly asked what it was written in a certain verse in the Bible, would you be able to answer it?

6) – But what about the Crusades?

Translation

“Investigator (U): Can you give some concrete examples of when it is better in Islam and Christianity?

Asylum seeker (S): According to Islam, one can be executed if one disagrees with Islam. There is a lot in the framework of Islam, which one must not do in Christianity. According to Islam, if you kill someone, you will be served with wine in paradise.

U: But it’s very simplified, that is both within the Qur’an and the Old Testament? Just as in the Qur’an, there are parts of the Bible that can be interpreted as saying that at some stages it is right to kill someone.

S: So everyone kills each other in Afghanistan. They say they kill and come to paradise.

U: Ok. So, because they do, is Islam so?

S: Yes.

U: But there are people who do it in the name of Christianity, are they then Christianity?

S: I know it will be the same, but in the Qur’an it says that you end up in paradise, but it does not do in the Bible.

U: But that’s not true. During the time of the crusade, the Bible interpreted exactly so. They also believed they said that it is written in the Bible, and justified what they were doing. The reason I say this is not to show that you are wrong, but I wonder, these religions are so similar, both have their roots in Judaism, there is something more than just Islam is bad Christianity good, what is it that made you interested in Christianity.

S: I don’t think it’s so in Christianity, why, should you say against Christianity, then he’ll live. In Islam, it is said that, then kills.”

My Comment

A Swedish authority questions the convert’s belief that Christianity is a peaceful religion in contrast to Islam by referring to the Crusades, something that happened 1000 years ago and is the darkest chapter of Christianity.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace that taught his disciples to turn the other cheek and to love your enemies. That is what we Swedish Pastors are teaching.

7) – No Guilt or Shame

Translation

“In addition, we note that none of them have felt any guilt or shame about their choice to abandon Islam and confess to Christianity, which seems strange”.

My Comment

In addition, I note that the Swedish Migration Board uses the word “abandon” when describing someone who has left Islam..

8) – Could you regret your conversion?

Translation

“Investigator (U): If you go back to Afghanistan, would you continue to practice Christianity?

Asylum seeker (S): Yes.

U: Did you intend to mission?

Interpreter (T): Interpreter does not understand.

U: Had you intended to spread your faith in Afghanistan?

S: Yes.

U: In what way?

S: I don’t understand.

U: Can you help me formulate the question…?

M: Would you tell about your faith for others and try to make them become Christians too?

S: No. They will kill me if they find out I am a Christian. Because in the Koran it says that if someone should leave, you will be punished and killed.

U: Would you be silent about your faith?

S: They’ll find out anyway.

U: How then?

S: Because when you return, they know that you have changed religion. When not praying and not following Islam. They will find out then.

U: If you, purely hypothetically, would say you regret your conversion at a return, would they accept your explanation and then forgive you?

S: No, never.

U: Why not?

S: When leaving the religion, it is a hundred percent that they kill one.”

My Comment

Here it really seems that the Swedish Migration Board tries to find a reason to deny this convert his right to faith and residence permit by trying to persuade him to hide his Christian faith in a country where conversion is punished with the death penalty. Since Sweden only gives residence permits if one is in need of protection, the Swedish Migration Board seems to investigate whether he is ready to regret his conversion because they then mean that he is no longer in need of protection when returning to the home country.

In practice, they want him to be ready to stand up for his Christian faith when Afghan authorities and the Taliban want to kill him because otherwise, he is not in need of protection. By behaving in this cynical way, the Swedish Migration Board denies this convert his right to faith and violates human rights and freedom of religion.

9) – No Doubt

Translation

“He has also shown good knowledge of the central Christian teachings. What he thus told us supports that he is truly a Christian.

“A” has not, during the oral hearing, expressed any contradictory feelings or doubts to the new Christian faith which he – quite haphazardly – has come into contact with in Sweden.”

My Comment

According to the Swedish Migration Board, this convert had good knowledge of the Christian faith and could in a good way tell about its faith.

BUT…!

He doubted too little. So he got rejected.

10) – Shop Around

Translation

“Investigator (U): There are a lot of religions, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Asatru (the Viking religion). Why did you just choose Christianity?

Asylum seeker (S): Well, I have not researched other religions, neither Hinduism nor anything else, I just read about Christianity.

U: If you still wanted to change, why not shop around so to speak, see which one is really the best?”

My Comment

These questions show in a bizarre way how the Swedish Migration Board thinks about religion. That it is something you can choose by comparing based on knowledge, or “shop around” as they put it.

And that they even ask an afghan why he did not consider the old Viking religion instead of Christianity is just totally bizarre. I don’t even know how to comment on that.

11) – All Saints’ Day

Translation

“As far as your knowledge of Christianity is concerned, the Migration Board states that you have some knowledge, which can be expected given the amount of church activities you have participated in. However, the Swedish Migration Board considers that the explanation you have given to how little you understood from the All Saints’ Church Service is not acceptable. You could not tell anything about what that service was about and referred to your deficient Swedish. At the same time you sometimes switched to Swedish at the inquiry because it was easier for you and you have access to a Bible in Persian. The Migration Board believes that if you were genuine in your Christian conviction, you should have a greater interest in finding out what the services are about.”

My Comment

When I first read this, I initially thought finally a convert that succeeds in getting approved on the Migration Board’s knowledge questions!!! BUT, then I saw that he could not explain the All Saints’ Church Service so he was rejected…

12) – The Migration Board’s religious illiteracy

Translation

“The Swedish Migration Board finds that you seem to have some knowledge of Christianity as a religion. However, the Migration Board finds that your knowledge is limited and that you can only specifically answer certain specific areas of Christianity. It seems particularly noteworthy that you cannot distinguish the Lutheran Church of Sweden and the Pentecostal Church at any deeper level, especially because of the regular involvement you have described as having in both churches. The Migration Board finds that you have not been able to give a convincing account of your feelings, considerations and risk assessments prior to the decision to convert, but rather that your choice has not been preceded by any kind of comparison between neither religions, different Christian orientations nor choice of church.

At the Migration Board’s question about why it is important for you to mission, you have told that Jesus Christ gave his message to his disciples and that we should go out and pass on and give the message to other people. It is unknown to the Migration Board that the Lutheran Church of Sweden is engaged in missionary activities, but it does not exclude the fact that within the framework of your personal commitment to Christianity you carry out your own missionary work.

You have described the Christian holidays Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. You have to some extent provided accurate facts in your description, but also lacked knowledge regarding such a central part of Christianity as the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. The Swedish Migration Board believes that your description of the Christian feast traditions is not preceded by any emotional description of the Christian message.”

My Comment

This decision is interesting because it reveals the Migration Board’s view of religion. The Migration Board believes that this convert has a fairly good knowledge of Christianity. But it is strange why the convert did not make a comparison between other religions or other churches before converting.

But honestly, would you be able to account for the differences, apart from infant baptism vs believer’s baptism, between the Swedish Lutheran Church and the Pentecostal Church? And was it important to you BEFORE you became a Christian and also crucial in which church you chose to become a Christian in?

Then the Migration Board seems to think that it is the Swedish Lutheran Church which is the epicenter of Christianity, and not the Bible. According to the Migration Board, the fact that the convert wants to talk about his faith in Jesus is strange, because it is unknown to the Migration Board that the Swedish Lutheran Church is engaged in missionary activities.

Well, to me it is strange that the Swedish Migration Board does not know that the Swedish Lutheran Church actually is engaged in missionary activities. Just google it.

Finally, the Migration Board is critical of the fact that this convert doesn’t know enough about Christian festivals. But honestly, could you tell me how you last celebrated Pentecost…?

Due to the Migration Board’s obvious religious ignorance, this convert was rejected.

13) – The Bible is very female-hostile

Translation

“Investigator (U): The woman’s view of the Bible is better than that of the Quran?

Asylum seeker (S): Of course, that is very different. One example is that when a whore, a prostitute, goes to Jesus for Jesus to judge her, according to Sharia, she would have been stoned to death. But Jesus says that the first person who has never sinned may throw the first stone. Everyone had gone because everyone had sinned. But in Islam, if you want, I can explain to you.

U: What does Paul say about the woman in the Bible?

S: I don’t remember.

U: For example, she should be quiet in the congregation, what do you think about it?

S: For myself, women are equal to men.

U: You tell, women are like men, the Bible says something else. You tell that women do not have the same rights in the Quran. Why do you have these two different methods of interpretation? You literally interpret the
Quran but you don’t do with the Bible. S: I myself have not expressed myself about the Quran. You yourself referred to the Quran. I have previously told you that according to the Quran and my society, women have less value compared to men.

U: Then I don’t understand why you convert. If you say it is society that is the problem and not the religion.

S: I am talking about a Muslim country, where Islam prevails, I have grown up with Islam.

U: I want to know what you’re thinking about this. This is actually the New Testament that says, for example, that the woman should be silent in the congregation, the woman is an image of the man and that she should wear a veil. This is very female-hostile. What do you think about this?

S: Why aren’t you referring to that woman who comes to wash Jesus’ feet with the perfume.

U: So you choose to take in the parts that you think are good with Christianity?”

My Comment

In a conversation about the Bible and the Quran’s view of women, the investigator puts in their own values and interpreted the convert itself. The investigator claims that the Bible is “very female-hostile”.

14) – Traffic Accidents

Translation

““A” has not been able to convincingly describe the internal process and the considerations he has made in connection with his conversion. He has stated that the only reason he is praying is to avoid traffic accidents and not get into trouble.”

My Comment

One of the reasons the Migration Board did not believe this convert was a genuine Christian, is because the interpreter translated wrong. When the convert during the interrogation prayed The Lord’s Prayer: “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”, the interpreter misunderstood and incorrectly translated that the convert was praying to avoid “traffic accidents”.

It is a big problem that many interpreters come from a Muslim background, the investigators ask questions based on a Lutheran mindset, but most of the converts have become Pentecostal or Free-Church Christians.

In another interrogation, the interpreter has a difficult time to translate when the convert speaks of typical central pentecostal-charismatic concepts such as “born again”, “salvation” or “outpouring of the Holy Spirit”.

15) – The Football Team

Translation

“Investigator (U): But this love and fellowship that you tell about in the church, what sets it apart from other social contexts and groups do you think?

Asylum seeker (S): What do you mean by other social contexts?

U: I mean that there are other social contexts you can join in, for example it can be a football team, or associations where you can find love and fellowship.”

My Comment

Here the Swedish Migration Board compares the Christian faith with a Football Team.

16) – True Salvation

Translation

”It was an evening and I went to a store to buy cigarettes. The clock was about 10 in the evening. When I got into the store and I arrived at the checkout and were to receive the cigarettes, it was a man from Iran who stood there. First we talked in Swedish. He asked me where I came from. He spoke Swedish. I said I was from Afghanistan but that I grew up in Iran. Then he asked in Persian: “If so, do you speak Persian?” I replied “yes, of course I can speak Persian to 100%”. I started talking to him on the Shiraz dialect. The man was also from Shiraz, he spoke with the same dialect. The first question he asked was how I felt. I said “I feel good”. But he said he saw that I didn’t feel good, that he thought I looked tired. He asked if he could help me in any way. I didn’t look that good. It was during that period when I used to smoke and drink.

There weren’t any who would buy things at the store. It was time to close the store. I thought I would tell and explain about my life. I told him about the difficulties I had in life and what I have been exposed to earlier in life. He said he could help me and that he knew a good doctor who could help me. But I responded with a smile that I have been to several doctors but nobody could help me neither mentally nor physically. His name is “…”.

Who?

The man I talked to in the store. He’s from “…”. Shall I continue?

Yes.

But he laughed and said he knew another person who could really help me. I asked who it might be? “…” said it was the prophet Jesus Christ. I asked, “the Prophet Jesus Christ, who is it?” It was then that “…” told me about the Prophet.

I took my cigarettes, we greeted and said good bye. When I was on my way, I thought of his words. Who can the Prophet Jesus Christ be? Then I lived with one of my friends. When I got home I was alone at home, no one else was at home. I opened my computer. I kept thinking about who Jesus is. It spun around in the head. I googled and I searched for Jesus Christ on Youtube. When I searched, there were some alternatives. One was a movie about Jesus in Farsi.

Since I knew Persian, I opened the film. I think it was about three hours long. I sat down and watched the movie. When I saw the film I became very interested in the film. Over time, it was so sensitive that my tears began to run down my cheeks. There were some words that Jesus used that were so sensitive that they came straight to my heart. When I was finished with the film, a strange feeling came to me. It felt like a person had hugged me with love. It was very nice. Someone told me that I am important, valuable and that I am one of the best for him. Then I knew it was the Prophet Jesus Christ who hugged me. It was then that I sat down with my knees and began to cry and pray. I cried and I prayed to the Prophet Jesus Christ. Shall I continue?

It depends on where you want to bring the story?

Public adviser: Isn’t this one of the most important parts that the Migration Board wants to know about?

You can continue.

For the first time, I knew I was good enough and valuable. It was after I watched the movie and the hug and love I got.”

My Comment

As a pastor, it is obvious to me that this convert has met Jesus, been saved and is a genuine Christian.

But the Migration Board does not seem to understand where the convert wants to come up with this story. It ended with the Migration Board not believing that he was a genuine Christian and intends to deport him to Afghanistan, the world’s second most dangerous country for Christians.

At the end of the interview, the Swedish Migration Board points out that the Afghan converted after the negative decision and thus questioned the authenticity. The convert then explains that this is right and that he felt very bad then and that he prayed to his god but who did not answer him, but that “it was then Jesus came to me”. He believes that it was not really he who sought Jesus, but Jesus who sought him.

He did not have the ambition to become a Christian, but in a very difficult and desperate state he unexpectedly met Jesus and got a new life. Jesus took away the cigarettes and alcohol and instead filled him with salvation and love and gave him a fellowship. A classic testimony that I believe many people can recognize. Though not the Migration Board, which decided that he is not a true Christian and thus should be expelled to Afghanistan, a country that persecutes and kills Christians.

It is obvious to me that the Swedish Migration Board does not have the competence to judge whether or not someone is a Christian. They should immediately cease this or, if they are not willing to do so, at least listen to us pastors when we certify that a convert is a genuine Christian.

Conclusion

According to a more up-to-date view of religion, modern research emphasizes, according to author Joel Halldorf, in the book Gud: Återkomsten, that “religion is more often something that is lived rather than something that is thought” and that what draws people to religion is the relationship. One of the leading researchers in the field, sociologist Rodney Stark, writes: “For generations, it was believed that religious conversations were the result of being attracted to certain doctrines […] But when sociologists actually studied conversions, it was discovered that the doctrine was secondary to the decision to convert. […] Today, dozens of studies of conversions show that social networks are the primary engine.”

But it is not just the research that states that knowledge is not necessarily required to belong to a religion. UNHCR’s Refugee Claims Guidelines state that claims for religion may refer to (1) religion as belief, (2) religion as identity, (3) religion as a way of life. Knowledge is therefore not considered necessary to be a part of a particular religion. Religious freedom includes the right to manifest the religion both individually and in a community, both privately and publicly. A religious belief, identity or lifestyle is so fundamental to the human identity that a human being cannot be expected to hide or change his religious expression to avoid persecution. The Migration Board should focus more on the “external” possibilities of the convert to live out their religious beliefs, than the “inner” religious view of the convert.

In comparison with pastors’ certificates, modern research and UNHCR guidelines, the Migration Board appears to be inconsistent, arbitrary and religiously illiterate. They put great emphasis on knowledge questions while they themselves confess that they are doing wrong when they make knowledge research. They say that certain knowledge questions can be important if the convert is a theologian or pastor, but they still ask knowledge questions to the illiterate. They assess and decide whether the converts are genuinely Christian or not, when they at the same time admit that it is not the Migration Board’s “task to assess whether converts are Christians”. They themselves acknowledge that they do not have “the task of being specifically familiar in the practice of religion in Sweden”, but they do not trust pastors, who in fact have this as their main task. They say they do not deport converts, but they do.

In conclusion, I would like to make a concrete proposal. Instead of suspiciously requiring converts to prove they are Christians, the Swedish Migration Board should, in the name of religious freedom, consider converts as Christians until the opposite is proven. The UN’s refugee convention states that a refugee should not be sent back to a country where there are serious threats to life and freedom. It is a human right to unconditionally change religion when and how you want. If the freedom of religion is taken away from the converts, I wonder which human right is next.

Moreover, I believe that no one should be deported to Afghanistan.


Christian Mölk is the pastor of the Pentecostal Church of Härnösand, Sweden, and a human rights activist.

Read more about this issue here.

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