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A church minister last night revealed he has baptised up to 500 asylum seekers in the sea – but more than half disappeared after their Christian conversion.

Pastor Phylip Rees told the Mail on Sunday that he arranged mass baptisms of migrants on a beach in South Wales during winter months as a ‘litmus test’ of their faith.

An extraordinary video posted on YouTube shows up to 40 asylum seekers being baptised on a windy beach in Barry Island.

Wearing a woolly hat and coat, Pastor Rees is shown hugging the migrants as they waded out of the waves after their ‘full immersion’ baptisms.

The 74-year-old, a minister at Tredegarville Baptist Church in Cardiff for 16 years, estimated that up to 60 per cent of the people he baptised were never seen again, with many leaving the areas to find work, often in London.

I was a pastor for 30 years and baptised 500 asylum seekers in the sea – but half of them never came back to church: Video shows dozens being welcomed to Christianity off windy beach amid fears conversions are used to support bogus claims to stay in UK

Pastor Phylip Rees (pictured) told the Mail on Sunday that he arranged mass baptisms of migrants on a beach in South Wales during winter months as a ‘litmus test’ of their faith

An extraordinary video posted on YouTube shows up to 40 asylum seekers being baptised on a windy beach in Barry Island

An extraordinary video posted on YouTube shows up to 40 asylum seekers being baptised on a windy beach in Barry IslandĀ 

Wearing a woolly hat and coat, Pastor Rees is shown hugging the migrants as they waded out of the waves after their 'full immersion' baptisms

Wearing a woolly hat and coat, Pastor Rees is shown hugging the migrants as they waded out of the waves after their ‘full immersion’ baptisms

The 74-year-old, a minister at Tredegarville Baptist Church in Cardiff for 16 years, estimated that up to 60 per cent of the people he baptised were never seen again

The 74-year-old, a minister at Tredegarville Baptist Church in Cardiff for 16 years, estimated that up to 60 per cent of the people he baptised were never seen again

Pastor Rees said he wanted to help immigrants in need, adding: ‘We prayed that God would send us asylum seekers and lo and behold the Home Office opened up an office right next to the church.’

His comments reveal the astonishing scale of Christian conversions among asylum seekers in the UK and will fuel fears that many falsely claim to have embraced the religion as part of bogus claims to stay here.

The Home Office does not collect data on the number of migrants who are granted asylum on the basis of religion, despite evidence that some are converting to Christianity to game the system.

Home Secretary James Cleverly commissioned a review into the issue following the chemical attack in Clapham suspected to have been carried out by an Afghan sex offender who was allowed to stay in the UK after claiming he had converted to Christianity.

Whistleblowing priest The Rev Matthew Firth last week accused the Church of England of being part of a ‘conveyor belt’ of questionable conversions.

Pastor Rees said he wanted to help immigrants in need, adding: 'We prayed that God would send us asylum seekers and lo and behold the Home Office opened up an office right next to the church'

Pastor Rees said he wanted to help immigrants in need, adding: ‘We prayed that God would send us asylum seekers and lo and behold the Home Office opened up an office right next to the church’

His comments reveal the astonishing scale of Christian conversions among asylum seekers in the UK and will fuel fears that many falsely claim to have embraced the religion as part of bogus claims to stay here

His comments reveal the astonishing scale of Christian conversions among asylum seekers in the UK and will fuel fears that many falsely claim to have embraced the religion as part of bogus claims to stay here

The Home Office does not collect data on the number of migrants who are granted asylum on the basis of religion, despite evidence that some are converting to Christianity to game the system

The Home Office does not collect data on the number of migrants who are granted asylum on the basis of religion, despite evidence that some are converting to Christianity to game the system

CoE guidelines say clergy must be confident that those seeking baptism ‘fully understand what it signifies’, with ministers advised to be ‘wise as serpents and innocent as doves’.

Many churches that are not part of the CoE do not have any guidelines for handling baptism requests from asylum seekers.

As well as those asylum seekers he has baptised in the sea, Pastor Rees baptised hundreds more asylum seekers at the Cardiff church. Many were Iranian or Afghan and all but one was a former muslim.

The clergyman, who left the Cardiff church in 2019, says he wrote thousands of letters to the immigration services on behalf of asylum seekers who were members of his congregation and attended hundreds of immigration tribunal hearings.

Those wanting to be baptised would have to attend bible classes one night a week for two months and attend church on Sundays, he said.

He claims to have refused to help about 40 asylum seekers after deciding their wish to convert from Islam to Christianity was not genuine. He reported one man to the Home Office after discovering that he was faking his faith.

‘If I suspected that someone wasn’t genuine, I wouldn’t baptise them. I would refuse.

He added: ‘If you are seeking to use Christianity as a means of gaining British citizenship then you are making a great big mistake. The Government frowns upon it, they do the necessary checks and I’ve had a number of people turned down over the years.’

Holding mass baptisms in the sea during the winter was a way of testing his worshippers’ faith, he claimed.

‘We would go in January and February and take up to 60 people at a time, nearly all were asylum seekers.

‘No one ever said no but you wouldn’t get lilywhite Welsh people going in at that time of year, the water wasn’t warm enough. It was a litmus test of their commitment, if you can’t deal with a little bit of cold water then you’re not ready for baptism. It was a test of the reality of their faith.’

James Cleverly commissioned a review into the issue after a chemical attack in Clapham suspected to have been carried out by Afghan sex offender Abdul Ezedi (pictured) who was allowed to stay in the UK after claiming he had converted to Christianity

James Cleverly commissioned a review into the issue after a chemical attack in Clapham suspected to have been carried out by Afghan sex offender Abdul Ezedi (pictured) who was allowed to stay in the UK after claiming he had converted to Christianity

Pastor Rees, a father-of-four who became a full time baptist minister aged 43, is now at Duckpool Baptist Church in Newport, where he describes the congregation as ‘vastly different’.

‘They are mostly elderly, older than me. We do carry out baptisms there but we haven’t got any booked at the moment.’

A source close to the Home Secretary said: ‘It is clear that the Home Office does not regard religious conversion as an automatic right to asylum.

‘Home Office case workers recognise, apart from someone’s purely personal opinion, there is no mechanism or technique to authenticate whether a conversion is solid or meaningful, or even real. Nor should any conversion be a vehicle for gaming a system.’



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