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Finnish priests worry about deportation of converted Christians

Finnish priests want to play a bigger role in deciding whether the faith of asylum seekers who convert to Christianity is genuine.

Seurakuntalainen kirkossa.
Image: Toni Pitkänen / Yle

Over 400 Finnish priests, mostly Lutheran, have signed a petition requesting that the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) make use of the clergy’s knowledge in dealing with asylum seekers who convert to Christianity.  

"The parishes have real expertise with people who have converted to Christianity from Islam or another religion," says Jouni Lehikoinen, vicar at St Michael’s parish in Turku.

The church has previously estimated that hundreds of asylum seekers have converted to Christianity since arriving in Finland.

The authorities at Migri only conduct one interview when determining an applicant's religion, he adds.

According to Lehikoinen, in some Islamic countries people who have converted to Christianity in Finland may face persecution.

He says the church makes efforts to avoid helping asylum seekers convert to Christianity only to advance their asylum applications.

"We make it clear to asylum seekers who want to convert that furthering their application is not a reason to become a Christian," Lehikoinen says.

The petition will be delivered to interior minister Paula Risikko on 20 September.

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