Over 20,000 people are urging Brixton Prison to reinstate a Christian chaplain who says he was unfairly ousted.
Paul Song volunteered at the prison for almost 20 years but was told last year by the Senior Chaplain, a Muslim, that he was no longer allowed to speak to inmates.
An official later confirmed the exclusion, prompting Christian Concern to take up the case and launch a petition calling for Song’s return.
Former prisoners have spoken out in his defence, saying he was a “light in the darkness” and a source of continuous support.
Paul Song, who is 48 and from South Korea, says he was forced out after accusations that he was teaching ‘extreme’ beliefs and had derided a prisoner.
But the allegations are false, Song attests, stating that he has worked in prisons for many years without a complaint.
He told the Daily Express that the culture in prison promoted Islam – “If someone is secular and in prison and they want to lead a peaceful life in prison they need to become Muslim.
“That way they are protected.”
“My heart is disappointed”, he said, before declaring that he wants to clear his name.
Under the previous Christian Senior Chaplain, Song had run courses from Alpha and Canon J John, but Imam Mohamed Yusef Ahmed cracked down on such activities.
Song says: “Imam Mohamed’s discriminatory agenda was clear from the outset.
“He began scrutinising the material for each of our courses, commenting that the material was ‘too radical’, and that the Christian views expressed were ‘extreme’”, despite them being used by churches around the world.
Christian Concern’s Andrea Williams said: “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 Brixton turning their lives around, and so it is shocking that prisoners who are desperate for a new way of life should now be prevented from seeing Paul.”
Former Brixton prisoner Jeremy Conlon praised Song’s “humility, wisdom and gentleness”, saying: “Prison is a tough place to be, though Paul was a light in the darkness for me and many others.”
Another former inmate at Brixton, Peter Levy, said: “Paul’s continued support for me and other prisoners, even after the course had finished, brought us all hope of a new way of life.”
HM Prison and Probation Service said: “We do not comment on individual members of staff. However, we recognise the importance of faith and the positive impact that it can have on the lives of offenders, which is why there are multi-faith chaplaincy teams in every prison.”