Court recognises threat to Christian converts

A UK immigration court of appeals has for the first time recognisd the threat to the lives of Muslim converts to Christianity by granting asylum to a Syrian evangelical Christian couple.

In an unprecedented victory, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) helped a young couple (whose identity is being withheld for security reasons) gain refugee status in the UK on Monday.

The court recognised that the couple would face real physical threats, including death, if they return to Syria, the country of origin of the husband. The appeal was granted on both asylum and human rights grounds.

"This is a significant and groundbreaking decision that clearly puts the focus on the fact that many converts to Christianity from Islam face real danger including the ultimate penalty of death," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of both the ECLJ and its US-based affiliate the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), in a statement.

He added, "This important decision will not go unnoticed in the international arena and we're delighted that it provides protection for Christian converts who are at great risk because of their faith and their desire to share it."

The couple had converted to evangelical Christianity a few years ago - the husband in 2003 and the wife in 2005 - and have thereafter openly witness their Christian faith to Muslims via internet chat rooms.

After their conversion, which is considered apostasy under Sharia law and punishable by death, the couple began receiving death threats, including a video of a beheading.

The husband's family told him if he refused to return to Islam then they would "wash their shame", or put him to death.

"This is truly a landmark day in the United Kingdom as a nation awakens to the ever-growing threat of radical Islam and the plight of Christians in the Middle East," said Roger Kiska, Legal Counsel of the ECLJ who represented the couple at the appeals court. "I couldn't be happier with the decision and the role that ECLJ played in the case."

The ECLJ and ACLJ have worked closely together on the case. The ACLJ helped gather the signatures of six members of the US Congress in a letter to the UK appeals court in August.

Members of Congress had urged the appeals court to protect the couple and acknowledge that they "would face severe religious persecution as a result of their conversion from Islam to Christianity".

American lawmakers also recognised that the couple faced a "credible threat" and that their lives were in danger.

The ECLJ is an international law firm specialising in the protection of human rights and religious freedom in Europe and worldwide. It is affiliated with the ACLJ, which focuses on protecting religious freedom in the US.