Liverpool Cathedral has 'robust processes' in place for asylum seekers showing interest in Christianity

(Photo: Facebook/Liverpool Cathedral)

Liverpool Cathedral has defended its work with asylum seekers after coming under fire because of its connection with the Poppy Day bomber.

Cathedral officials said they were "horrified" at the actions of Emad al-Swealmeen, 32, who blew himself up outside the Liverpool Women's Hospital on Sunday. 

"The Dean and Chapter of Liverpool Cathedral have expressed their shock at the news that the bomber on Sunday, was connected to our community," they said in a statement. 

It has since emerged that al-Swealman arrived in the UK in 2014 and made an unsuccessful application for asylum. He later showed an interest in Christianity and was eventually confirmed in Liverpool Cathedral in 2017.

"Clearly, we cannot speculate on the motivations of this individual. However, we are clear that the actions of an individual do not reflect a whole community and we remain united with all in the city and country who work for peace as we continue to pray for Liverpool at this time," Liverpool Cathedral said in a statement. 

The bomber's conversion to Christianity has given rise to suggestions in the media that asylum seekers are pretending to become Christian in order to "game the asylum system". 

The cathedral said the decision to support an application was not made lightly and that its ministry with asylum seekers would continue. 

"The ministry to asylum seekers is one of the ways we can welcome people following the teachings of Jesus in clothing and feeding those in need. Welcoming people into a worshipping community is one way we engage," it said.

"Liverpool Cathedral has developed robust processes for discerning whether someone is might be expressing a genuine commitment to faith.

"These include requirements for regular attendance alongside taking part in a recognised Christian basics course.

"We would expect someone to be closely connected with the community for at least two years before we would consider supporting an application."