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Churches 'brought into disrepute' over Clapham attacker Abdul Ezedi's asylum claim, Christian organisation says

Churches have been "brought into disrepute" after one in Tyneside supported the asylum application of Clapham chemical attacker Abdul Ezedi, a leading Christian organisation has said.

Christian Concern has publicly supported the cases of other asylum seekers who have converted to Christianity, but told Sky News that churches need to be more rigorous to ensure conversions are genuine.

Someone converting should "renounce their former faith" and "accept that Jesus is the only God", it added.

Ezedi was baptised at Grange Road Baptist church in Jarrow on 24 June 2018. His claim to have converted to Christianity formed the basis of a second asylum application he submitted in 2019.

That, like the first, was rejected, but he was finally granted asylum by an appeal judge in November 2020 because of "compelling" evidence given by a retired reverend from Grange Road.

In an interview with a Home Office official, however, Ezedi could name only four of Jesus's 12 disciples.

And he was granted asylum despite being convicted of sexual assault and exposure in January 2018.

Handwritten notes from the appeal hearing barely mention his convictions.

Asked about something that happened with a "co-worker at a fast food restaurant in South Shields", Ezedi replied: "I was present there, I did not work. An incident happened." The notes go on to say: "No re-examination."

The 35-year-old, from Afghanistan, attacked a mother and her two children with an alkali in south London in January. His body was later found in the River Thames.

'Not a genuine convert'

Tim Dieppe, head of public policy at Christian Concern, said: "It doesn't help the reputational risk of a church when a church minister has been backing someone who, obviously, was not actually a genuine convert.

"I think sadly this kind of thing has brought the church into disrepute because it's seen that the church has helped some people whose claim to asylum isn't justified."

Churches need to "take more care", Mr Dieppe said, suggesting that "in baptisms, somebody who is a convert ought to renounce their former faith".

He added: "They ought to have to say something like, 'I renounce Islam, I renounce Muhammad. He's not a prophet. I do accept that Jesus is the only God'.

"And that would be harder for somebody who's a fake convert to publicly state."

The risk that genuine converts will not be believed has risen, Mr Dieppe said.

"Already, it's difficult. I know from experience some genuine converts trying to get asylum, and I think this will make it a bit harder and make the system more prejudiced to disbelieve people about conversions."

Read more:
The 'traumatising' search for dead bodies in the Thames
Two 'unexpected' bodies' found during search for Clapham suspect

Baptists Together, the organisation which represents the church that Ezedi claimed to belong to, told Sky News: "Baptist churches around the UK and across the world have always, and will always, adopt a posture of welcome and compassion to those fleeing war, persecution, famine and the consequences of climate change, irrespective of any intention to convert to Christianity.

"Whenever anyone, asylum seeker or otherwise, explores Christian faith in a Baptist church, due care will be taken to ensure those wanting to profess Christian faith understand the deep commitment they are making and specifically the need to turn away from wrongdoing and seek to follow Christ in his ways of love."

Additional reporting by Nick Stylianou, Communities producer.