Concerns migrants are faking religious conversions at Liverpool Cathedral to help asylum claims

·3 min read
Suicide bomber Emad Al Swealmeen converted to Christianity at Liverpool Cathedral
Suicide bomber Emad Al Swealmeen converted to Christianity at Liverpool Cathedral

Concerns have been raised over the role Liverpool Cathedral has played in helping asylum seekers convert to Christianity in order to help their applications.

Hundreds of Muslims - including suicide bomber Emad Al Swealmeen - have been welcomed into the Church of England in recent years after completing a short five-week course at the city’s Anglican cathedral.

But critics have questioned how many of those converting have done so in order to help their asylum applications with the Home Office.

If an applicant can show they are a committed Christian it could help their claim to stay in the UK because their faith might mean they are more at risk if forced to return to their home country.

Converting to Christianity is also evidence of the applicant's success in integrating into Western society.

Counter terror police are continuing to examine the background of Swealmeen who blew himself up outside Liverpool Women's Hospital on Remembrance Sunday.

It has now emerged that the 32-year-old from Iraq converted to Christianity at Liverpool Cathedral three years after arriving in the UK in 2014.

Detectives have said they are yet to establish a motive for the attack which took place a short distance from the cathedral as a Poppy Day service was taking place.

But questions have been raised over the ease with which asylum seekers are able to exploit the cathedral's services in order to assist with their application.

Officials from the cathedral, which hosts regular services for Muslim worshippers considering changing faith, has also supported asylum applications for a number of people seeking to remain in the UK.

But even those involved with the process have acknowledged that not all those seeking to convert are genuine.

Mohammad Eghtedarian, himself a Muslim convert who was later ordained and served as a curate at Liverpool Cathedral warned in 2016 that some people were pretending to convert in order to exploit the system.

'There are many people abusing the system'

He said: "I do understand there are a lot of mixed motives. There are many people abusing the system – I’m not ashamed of saying that.

"But is it the person’s fault or the system’s fault? And who are they deceiving? The Home Office, me as a pastor, or God?”

The Rev Pete Wilcox, a former Dean of Liverpool, also said at the time: “I can’t think of a single example of somebody who already had British citizenship converting here with us from Islam to Christianity."

Converts at Liverpool Cathedral have to attend a five-week baptism course and are expected to attend church services before it starts.

Sam Ashworth-Hayes, director of studies at the Henry Jackson Society, said the Home Office must look into the issue as a matter of urgency.

He said: "We know that people are willing to lie to win asylum up to and including faking religious conversions. This is incentivised by the asylum system, which does not do enough to root out fakes.

“The Home Office and Security Services should investigate the Liverpool Cathedral convert cluster.”

Bishop Cyril Ashton, who conducted Swealmeen's confirmation in 2014 said: "Like so many, I have been shocked and saddened by the bombing in Liverpool and the revelation that the bomber was part of the cathedral community for a while.

"His confirmation was one of hundreds I have conducted as a bishop, so I have no specific recollection of the individual.

"The church takes confirmation seriously and I know that he would have been thoroughly prepared with an understanding of the Christian faith.

"It seems that, sadly, despite this grounding, the bomber chose a different path for his life.

"My prayers are with the cathedral, David Perry and the entire community at this time."

Liverpool Cathedral was approached for comment.

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