A Chinese Christian seeking political asylum was turned back by Canadian officials who didn’t like his answers about Jesus.
“The man’s inability to attribute human characteristics to Jesus formed part of the board’s decision to deny his refugee claim,” writes Douglas Quan in the Ottawa Citizen newspaper.
Wu Xin Wang came to Canada in April 2007 on a temporary work permit and requested refugee protection in January 2008. In documents filed with the immigration board, he described a phone call from his wife in China, “who told him that officials from China’s Public Security Bureau had visited their home and were investigating illegal church activities,” reports Quan.
Wang had been a member of an underground Christian church and described how he sometimes acts as a lookout during church services.
In assessing Wang’s refugee claim, immigration bureaucrat Daniel Mc-Sweeney asked Wang: “So tell me about Jesus as a person. What was he like?”
“Jesus is son of God,” Wang said, according to court documents.
“I am not asking who he was or what he did. I am asking what is he like as a person,” McSweeney said.
“Jesus was conceived through the Holy Ghost and was born in this world,” Wang replied.
The answer did not satisfy McSweeney. “Anybody could memorize a creed and recite the creed. I want to know what you believe and what you know of Jesus as a person.”
“In my heart He is my Savior,” Wang answered.
“Again,” persisted McSweeney, “tell me what Jesus is as a person and this is the last time I am going to ask you.”
“I am sorry, I really do not know how to answer.”
As a result, the immigration board denied Wang’s refugee claim, saying he was not credible — and that his professed religious beliefs and practices “were merely an attempt to bolster his refugee claim,” writes Quan. “The board said it came to that conclusion in part of because of Wang’s inability to answer the question about Jesus or to describe certain core beliefs of the Pentecostal Church.”
Wang applied to Canada’s Federal Court.
Federal Court Judge David G. Near says he sees no reason to overturn the decision. The judge wrote. “This court cannot, on judicial review, decide to, in effect, reweigh the results of what can begin to look like a round of Bible trivia.”
As a result, Wang will be returned to China.
Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said she is troubled by the situation.
“If it is unclear what the correct answer is, how can that be an appropriate test?” she told the Ottawa Citizen‘s Quan. She said a better way to gauge a refugee claimant’s credibility is to ask them about their experience: “Where do you worship? What happens there? How often do you go?”
She noted that the Federal Court ruled that four Eritrean refugees were rejected by a Canadian visa officer in Cairo, Egypt, because they had been unable to name the “seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.”