Iranian asylum seekers in Germany are converting to Christianity in large numbers, but some fear that many of them are only doing so to avoid deportation back to Iran.
German asylum laws dictate that anyone fleeing persecution by their government can claim asylum and in Iran, those who convert from Islam to Christianity can face the death penalty for apostasy. German authorities are concerned that large numbers of Iranian migrants in the country are playing the asylum system by converting to Christianity in order to secure refugee status in Germany, reports Rhine-Neckar Zeitung.
A local pastor in the city of Heidelberg said: “A massive amount of Iranians convert,” and added, “mostly they are between 20 and 35 years old and come from the educated class.” Neither the Federal Statistical Office, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), or the evangelical church keep any record of who converts and their origins. The pastor said, “we count the number of baptisms, but we have no statistics of where the people come from.”
Some of the new Christians claim to have genuinely experienced a religious conversion, such as a 31-year-old Iranian man who, for security reasons, goes by the name “Siyawash”. The Iranian did not believe in Islam but went through the motions for the sake of keeping up appearances until he was approached by a Christian who invited him into his home. “On the first and second visit, I was still afraid,” he said because conversion can lead to the death penalty.
Siyawash was eventually found out and reported to the police causing him to flee to Germany where he sought asylum. Many other migrants are suspected of converting simply to avoid deportation and the fact has gained the ire of some, including clergy. Judges in Germany have gone as far as to order tests to examine the faith of the asylum seekers in question to ensure they were being truthful.
Christian converts have also faced threats and violence for their actions from Muslims in asylum homes. Christian Charity Open Doors has recorded thousands of cases of abuse and threats toward Christians and Christian converts in German asylum homes and some have called for separate accommodation due to the violence.
Germany is not the only country affected by Muslim violence toward Christian converts. In Austria, a convert named Christopher said if Muslims, even in Austria, knew he had converted it “could be my death sentence.” Italy, home of the Roman Catholic church, is no different with Christians hiding their conversions from others for fear of reprisals.