Sweden has long been listed as one of the most atheistic countries in Western Europe, with a 2014 WIN/Gallup International poll finding that nearly eight out of 10 Swedes are either “not religious” or “convinced atheists.”
Christians are among the millions of refugees that have made their way across Western Europe, fleeing civil war and persecution in the Middle East, though they have faced various obstacles on the way.
The Migration Agency said that the test was needed, however, and insisted that other factors are also considered before deciding on a person’s application, such as why they converted to Christianity and how they exercise 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,” said Carl Bexelius, deputy legal director at the Swedish Migration Agency.
Following widespread criticism of its own Bible quiz questions, the U.K.’s visa and immigration agency decided in January to do away with that particular part of the assessment.
Christian converts there had been asked to name the Ten Commandments; list the books of the Bible; and explain what Easter is, among other questions.
Groups such as the British Pakistani Christian Association told The Christian Post at the time that language barriers and other factors present significant challenges for converts to answer correctly, however.
“We had heard horror stories of Iranian converts being failed over not knowing the meaning of obscure Western Christmas customs and the like,” BPCA President Wilson Chowdhry told CP.
“And, we have come across several cases where Pakistani Christians have had their cases rejected due to lack of knowledge on the part of decision makers or immigration judges about Christian practice.”
“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,” lawyer Serpil Güngör told SVT.
As The Local reported on Sunday, asylum seekers must remember the number of parts to the New Testament, but also explain theological questions, such as the difference between the Orthodox and Protestant churches.
Both lawyers and church representatives have reportedly criticized the test, arguing that it focuses more on technical knowledge rather than a person’s faith.
Some church leaders also questioned how much the Swedish Migration Agency itself actually knows about the Christian religion.
Hans-Erik Nordin, bishop of the Diocese of Strängnäs, told Dagen newspaper: “What knowledge does the Migration Agency have about religion and faith?”
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