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Liverpool Bombing Case Reignites Controversy over Refugee Conversions

The alleged attacker was baptized and confirmed in the Church of England several years ago amid a quest for asylum in the UK.

When a bomb went off in a Liverpool taxi on Sunday, it reignited controversy over the Christian conversions of UK asylum seekers.

The suspect, Emad al-Swealmeen, died in the explosion, which has been designated a terrorist incident. The 32-year-old had become a Christian and participated in a Bible study program for asylum seekers. Leaders from two Liverpool congregations testified to his faith and his involvement, telling media they were shocked by the reports of the bombing.

For years, the Home Office—the division of the British government overseeing immigration—has questioned whether Middle Eastern refugees were gaming the system to strengthen their pleas to stay. Converts can use their new faith to serve as a sign of assimilation and to claim they will face persecution if they return to their Muslim-majority home countries.

Swealmeen, according to reports, was born in Iraq and converted to Christianity from Islam the year after his 2014 asylum request was rejected.

The Diocese of Liverpool said he was baptized in 2015 and confirmed in 2017. That year, he also participated in an Alpha course for asylum seekers at the Liverpool Cathedral and filed an appeal to stay in the country.

A couple who volunteered with the course housed him for eight months with no issues and believed his conversion was sincere.

“During that time, we saw him really blossoming in regards to his Christian faith,” Malcolm Hitchcott said in a BBC interview. “He really had a passion about Jesus that I wish many Christians had, and he was ready to learn.”

He said Swealmeen read his Bible regularly and prayed with him and his wife each night.

Swealmeen attended another congregation, Emmanuel Church, from 2017 to 2019. A lay …

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