As theological debates on sexuality and marriage become more and more central, many Christian denominations are being asked to clarify their views.
German magazine Stern reports about 80 refugees from Iran and Afghanistan being baptised in Hamburg. New believers are seen with suspicion by those who think they changed their faith for political reasons. They also face threats of other refugees.
About 80 refugees who have become Christians were baptised in a public city park of Hamburg (Germany) last Saturday, according to a report by German magazine Stern.
The article gives details of how these new Christian believers were baptised by the Persian Christian church “Alpha und Omega.”
The baptism ceremony is only a small evidence of the amount of refugees coming to the Christian faith in Germany, pastor Albert Babajan says. Only in the church he leads more than 190 new Christians have been baptised in 2016, he explains.
“CHRIST IS LOVE”
“Today is a big day for us”, one of the new believers tells the journalist. “A new life starts for us”, she adds. Most of the people getting baptised live in centres for refugees in the region.
Another new Christian says: “In Islam we live in fear. Fear of God, fear of sinning, fear of the punishment.” But “Christ, is a God of love.”
Some might think the conversions to Christianity are a way of securing asylum in Germany, arguing that a refugee is not sent back to a country where the new faith could cost them his/her life.
But the reality is that becoming a Christian does not necessarily mean to have better chances to stay in Germany. On legal grounds, what counts the most is to have changed religion in the country of origin.
And one has to defend the conversion in front of a jury and even in the church where the person has been baptised.
“I ASK PEOPLE WHAT HAS CHANGED IN THEIR LIVES”
“If I have the impression someone does not really believe in his heart, I do not baptise them”, pastor Babajan says. “I do not ask people to learn prayers by heart, I ask people what has changed in their lives after their conversion. The Christian faith changes our way of thinking, our worldview.”
Only about 20%-30% of the people coming to his church are really interested in getting to know the gospel, according to the pastor. They have to go through a course to learn the basic doctrines of the Christian life.
CHALLENGES FOR THESE NEW CHRISTIANS
Furthermore, becoming a Christian brings new challenges for these refugees. “ I often hear from the members of my church, that they are threatened by others in the refugee centres. In the last months, some of these verbal hostilities turned into physical attacks.”
An asylum-seeker that started to follow Jesus, says: “The moment my friends hear I have become a Christian, they stop relating to me.” Even so, the Stern magazine reporter writes, she has tears of joy in her eyes moments before she walks into the Hamburger lake.
A refugee from Iran told Evangelical Focus her testimony of conversion in this interview. Another refugee shares how her faith in Jesus sustained her in the path to Europe in this article. Learn more about what churches can do in the series or articles: Refugees in Europe.