While there is no mass conversion of Muslim refugees to Christianity in Germany, a few congregations are experiencing significant growth following their missionary work with them, Deborah Berlioz reports from Berlin in the French Protestant daily Réforme (Oct. 29). A Lutheran parish belonging to a small German denomination linked to Lutheran Missouri Synod in Berlin now counts nearly 700 faithful of Afghan and Iranian Muslim backgrounds out of a total of 900 members. It started in 2011 and developed thanks to snowball effect: Rev. Gottfried Martens, who calls refugees “a blessing,” says that he has already baptized more than 150 people this year. Some had already developed an interest toward Christianity before leaving their home countries. When challenged about a possible opportunistic use of conversion for securing asylum—since an apostate Muslim cannot be sent back to Afghanistan and Iran—Rev. Martens answers that there is a serious, three-month long preparation, and that 90 percent of those whose asylum requests have been accepted continue to attend services.
Refugees also benefit from parish activities that help toward their integration into host society, e.g. language courses and youth work. A number of Christian congregations in Germany, from all denominations, have been involved in work for helping refugees, whatever their religious affiliation, and not linking this help with missionary work. According to Andreas Goetze, in charge of interreligious dialogue for the mainstream Protestant Church in the Berlin area, what is happening in Rev. Martens’ congregation is rather unusual: no mass conversion of refugees is reported in Germany at this time. According to Goetze, primarily Afghan and Iranian refugees of Shiite origin are attracted toward Christianity, due to some possible affinities of Shiite theology with Christianity (e.g. the potentially redeeming value of suffering). Most of those who convert prefer to attend parishes where they have an opportunity to interact with other people of similar background, Goetze adds.
(Réforme – http://www.reforme.net)