Praise God that Pastor Paul Song has been reinstated as a volunteer chaplain at Brixton Prison, thanks to your support.
Paul had his life-changing ministry at Brixton Prison shut down last year by a relatively-new muslim senior chaplain, who said that he wanted to “change the Christian domination” in the prison and complained that the courses Paul used (including Alpha) were “too radical”.
But because of support from the Christian Legal Centre, Paul has now returned to ministry at the prison.
Paul’s story featured extensively in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday – appearing on the front page. The paper also profiled Imam Mohammed Yusuf Ahmed, the chaplain who forced Pastor Song out of the prison.
Although the newspaper focused on Paul’s experiences while ministering at the prison, the story of his reinstatement is even more exciting for those of us who value the good news about Jesus being heard in prisons…
Courses shut down and Paul excluded from the prison
Paul ministered at the prison for nearly 20 years. Numerous ex-prisoners testified glowingly about the support they’d received from Paul.
But after Imam Mohamed Yusef Ahmed was appointed as the new senior chaplain in 2015 things changed drastically.
First, Paul’s courses were shut down, with the new senior chaplain claiming that the mainstream Christian courses Paul used (including Alpha and Just10) were “too radical”.
Then in August 2017, Paul was banned from the prison after the imam alleged that he had called a prisoner a “terrorist” and had made reference to Isis.
Paul recollects, “I was absolutely bemused. I had no prior indication that there was a problem. No details of any problem had been given, and so, maybe against my better judgement, I wanted to discuss the matter face-to-face as I was sure there had been a misunderstanding.
“When speaking with prisoners, staff members or anyone else, I would never make offensive comments. The Bible exhorts believers to ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’, and to ‘let thy light shine before men’, and so being intentionally offensive would violate these commandments.”
Campaigning for Paul’s reinstatement
Paul asked for help from the Christian Legal Centre, and we helped him pursue all the normal processes for challenging the decision. But when he received inadequate responses, we helped him take it further.
Everywhere we turned, people were speaking highly of Paul’s ministry and the effect it had had on their lives. The allegations made against him didn’t stack up.
And, amazingly, we spoke to other Christian ministries which, one-by-one, had recently been pushed out of the prison.
We started a petition, signed by over 43,000 people, calling for his reinstatement. We tried in every way we could imagine to get Paul’s ban investigated. Theresa Villiers MP submitted a written question to the Justice Secretary, asking if he had discussed the matter with the prison governor and if he would “take steps to press for that pastor’s reinstatement”.
But all we heard back were muddled, misrepresentative statements defending the decisions.
Launching a legal challenge
Eventually, with our help, Paul challenged the decision by applying for a judicial review.
The legal challenge seems to have persuaded the prison to look into what had happened properly. In May, Paul agreed to pause the legal proceedings while the prison service carried out an independent review.
The governor of another prison, Sara Pennington, met with Paul to hear his side of the story. Her report then concluded that Paul’s exclusion from the prison was not reasonable, and recommended for Paul to be reinstated as a volunteer chaplain.
Giving thanks for Paul’s continued ministry
Paul said, “I am so pleased with the outcome and I have seen God at work. I did not expect them to allow me back, but why am I surprised, why did I not have greater faith? After all, the accusations against me were false. I didn’t say the things I was accused of and now I can get back in and help the prisoners.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Legal Centre said:
“We are delighted that Paul is once again able to bring his life-changing ministry to prisoners at Brixton Prison.
“We have worked extensively on many fronts to see Paul reinstated – through legal support, detailed research and grassroots campaigning. It is wonderful to see justice done and prisoners once again benefiting from Paul’s ministry.
“Christian ministry in prisons has a long history, and its presence is essential for the rehabilitation and transformation of lives. Paul’s work has led to many prisoners in HMP Brixton turning their lives around, and we’re delighted that prisoners who are desperate for a new way of life will again be able to see Paul.”
Please join us in thanking God for helping us challenge Paul’s exclusion from the prison and for Paul’s return to ministry there.
And please share Paul’s story far and wide so that others find out the good news.
Find out more about Pastor Paul Song