Ongoing unrest throughout the Middle East has caused a dramatic upsurge in the number of refugees leaving the region to seek asylum in European countries. Germany, which has emerged as a primary destination for these asylum seekers, has begun to witness a surprising shift in demographics: large numbers of the predominantly Muslim refugees are converting to Christianity.
An evangelical congregation in Berlin called Trinity Church has seen its numbers quadruple over the last two years, largely thanks to ex-Muslims that now follow the Christian faith. According to Pastor Gottfried Martens, who has referred to his congregation’s growth from 150 to 600 worshipers as a “miracle,” the intentions of the vast majority of those converting are pure.
“I know there are – again and again – people coming here because they have some kind of hope regarding their asylum,” Martens said to the Associated Press. “I am inviting them to join us because I know that whoever comes here will not be left unchanged.” The German government has insisted that religion is not a factor in determining which applicants are granted asylum, with Chancellor Angela Merkel claiming that “Islam belongs in Germany.”
However, skeptics continue to argue that the spike in conversions from Islam to Christianity represents little more than an attempt to secure asylum. According to a Trinity Church member named Vesam Heydari, “The majority of Iranians here are not converting out of belief… They only want to stay in Germany.”
In the countries from which many of the refugees have fled, including Afghanistan and Iran, abandoning the Muslim faith to convert to Christianity is a grave crime punishable by jail time or even death. Those who do practice Christianity are forced to do so in secret, worshiping in a network of underground churches hidden in basements and remote locations.
Germany is considered one of the most welcoming countries in the EU. With millions and millions of people fleeing war in Syria, fleeing ISIS in Iraq, and leaving other countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Eritrea, Germany, Austria and other European countries may soon be near the tipping point. It’s estimated that more than 366,000 refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean Sea into Europe this year.
Only handful of buses.Ppl fed up waiting among the trash."We will walk 2 camp & register,it's 10mins away." #hungary pic.twitter.com/NMZuipw9hb
— Arwa Damon (@arwaCNN) September 7, 2015