The christian witness case

The applicant fled from Afghanistan to Denmark and applied for asylum. He fled because a commander killed the author’s father, and took the family land. The applicant was rejected by the Refugee Board and thus the case was sent to UNHCR. The Board however decided to reopen the case because of the applicant’s new asylum motive due to his conversion to Christianity.

In the new hearing in 2016, the applicant stated that he began to receive lessons in Christianity even before the first meeting of the refugee board. During that time, he also began reading the Bible and talked with others in the asylum center about Christianity. The applicant is very active on Facebook, his profile is public and he uses it to proselytize others. He has helped to convince eight to nine asylum seekers who hereafter have converted to Christianity. If he returns to Afghanistan, he will continue to proselytize his Christian faith, and he will be killed. His family is aware of his conversion and consider him an heretic.

In previous cases, asylum seekers were not allowed to bring a witness into the court. However, in this court hearing, they granted the applicant’s request for testimony of Helge Gimm, a close friend, who expressed that he was very sure that the applicant’s conversion is real.

At this point the Refugee Board was contemplating whether the applicant’s conversion is real.

On one hand, the applicant’s explanation about his relationship to Christianity until the fall of 2013 has been characterized by a large degree of uncertainty, and the board’s decision of 6 February 2014 raised serious doubts about the candidate’s original motive to be baptized. On the other hand, the applicant explained convincingly about the many Christian or church events, which he has participated in over a long period of about three years, and the many written statements from Ministers support this part of the applicant’s explanation. In addition, the applicant was able to answer follow up questions adequately. He has also demonstrated a significant general knowledge about Christianity.

After an overall assessment, the Refugee Board took the view that the applicant currently has a heartfelt Christian view of life, and that therefore his conversion to Christianity must now be regarded as genuine. The board also took the view that if he were in Afghanistan, he has the right to live an openly Christian life and to try to recruit followers for his new faith.

Thus the case was discontinued at the UNHRC. This case puts emphasis on how important it is to allow witnesses to give a testimony. It is a clear example of the kind of positive impact a testimony can have on the Board’s decision.

18. June 2020

CCPR 2352/2014
  • Decision: 28. September 2016
  • Comm: Human Rights