Frequent reports of Muslim refugees in Europe turning to Christ are encouraging the Church in Europe and elsewhere, but alongside this, there is growing concern about the continued persecution of Christian refugees at the hands of Muslim refugees.
In Germany, a considerable number of Muslim refugees from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan have converted from Islam to Christianity. Many were baptised in churches on Easter Day this year.
One church in Berlin has seen its congregation grow from 150 two years ago to almost 700, the majority of new members being converts from Islam.
In Austria, an estimated 200 adult convert refugees applied for baptism in the first three months of 2016, whilst in the UK, 100 to 140 refugees from Iran, Afghanistan and parts of Central Asia regularly attend the weekly Farsi-language service at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral.
The motives for conversion are many and varied. There are those with a genuine commitment to Jesus and Christianity, as well as those who hope that conversion to Christianity will aid their asylum process. There are also others who make the decision in gratitude to the Church because of the generosity shown to them.
Albert Babajan, a pastor in Hamburg who was involved in the baptism of 196 refugees in Hamburg, told the German magazine, Stern, “The motive for the change of faith is the same for many: they are disappointed with Islam.”
Pastor Babajan expects the number of refugees being baptised to rise to 500 by the end of 2016. He has, however, declined baptism to many whom he suspected of not having genuine motives to convert.
Conversion can turn out to be dangerous for the newly converted if they are later obliged to return to their home countries, where deserting Islam can in some contexts be punishable by death.
This is why the German immigration authorities will not send people who have proved themselves to be practising Christians back to countries like Iran or Afghanistan. In such countries apostasy from Islam is against the law and they risk facing prosecution and even death if they returned.
However, Immigration authorities often view conversion to Christianity with suspicion and look to test the authenticity of these conversions so that they can reject applications for asylum from those who are not genuine converts.
Suspicion from authorities are not the only challenge that new converts from Muslim backgrounds face in Europe. Muslim refugees also often target those who embrace Christianity and new converts are often at real risk of physical attack.
Amir and Mahshad are new Christians living in Germany. In a feature story released in Stern magazine, the two revealed that they have to leave for Sunday worship services in their jogging suits to pretend that they are going to the gym. “We cannot openly profess Christianity in Germany. Here the Muslims are stronger than the Christians,” they say.
- Give thanks for the numbers of Muslims coming to faith in Jesus across Europe, as well as in refugee camps in the Middle East.
- Pray for these new converts, for courage, protection and opportunists to meet with other believers and for good discipleship.
- Pray for those who convert for reasons of seeking asylum, that, as they learn and hear more of Jesus their faith will become genuine and commitment to Jesus a reality.
- Pray for Muslims refugees who seek to harm the Christians. Pray that they will themselves, encounter Christ Jesus and come to faith in Him through the working of the Holy Spirit and the testimony of the new believers.
- Pray that more countries will accept Christian refugees and provide a place of safe haven for these people.
Hebrews 7 vs 25: “Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”