By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
BERLIN, GERMANY (ANS – January 22, 2017) — Germany’s Ministry for Immigration and Refugees (BAMF) is rejecting many applications for asylum from Iranian and Afghan converts from Islam to Christianity, following “kangaroo court”-style hearings, according to a Berlin pastor.
In a story, World Watch Monitor (https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org), says that the Rev. Gottfried Martens, who has baptized more than 1,000 former Muslims, in a letter to supporters of his ministry, accused the “almost exclusively Muslim translators” in the hearings of deliberately falsely translating the converts’ responses to jeopardize their applications.
Martens, pastor of the Lutheran Dreieinigkeits Gemeinde (Trinity Community), criticized the ways in which officials investigated whether a conversion was genuine. “Questions are put such as the names of the two sons in the parable of the Prodigal Son, or what Martin Luther died of, or the occasion of Queen Margarethe of Denmark’s recent visit to Wittenberg,” he said.
World Watch Monitor goes on to say that in some hearings, Martens said asylum applicants “repeatedly undergo being mocked and laughed at when they relate how it is important to them that Jesus Christ died for their sins on the Cross.”
Many German Ministry officials “are manifestly clueless about the situation of Christians in Iran and Afghanistan, and, worse yet, they are utterly clueless concerning questions relating to the Christian faith,” Martens continued.
Converts from Islam to Christianity in countries such as Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan face rejection by their communities and in some cases death threats, since they have, in the eyes of Islam, committed the ultimate treachery of apostasy.
Separately, Martens criticized the Catholic Church and the Protestant EKD Church, which had opposed housing Christian and Muslim refugees separately – because doing so might suggest religions could not coexist peacefully. Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Chairman of the Council of Protestant Churches, said he would meet with politicians to express concern about the way that Iranian and Afghan converts are being treated.
In addition, on Monday (January 9th) Mitteldeutsche Kirchenzeitungen reported Martens as saying: “I have the impression, however, that the BAMF now has given out orders to judge converts particularly severely.”
A lawyer from the city of Nuremberg said he would hold workshops in different cities across Germany for volunteers who help converts seeking asylum, to enable them to navigate through the questioning by the authorities.
A spokesman for the German base of the global Christian charity Open Doors said: “These Christians have either fled from their home countries because of their newfound faith and the persecution they had to face because of it, or have come to believe in Jesus Christ after fleeing to Germany.
“Sending them back to their countries of origin is completely irresponsible in view of the situation for Christian converts in places like Iran or Afghanistan, because it is truly a matter of life and death. Open Doors demands an immediate revision of the policy of the BAMF in view of their dealing with converts.”
Open Doors Germany recommended in a report in October that converts be given Christian translators and, if they had suffered attacks, separate accommodation.
These criticisms echo those made in 2016 of the questioning faced by Christian asylum seekers in the UK. However, World Watch Monitor says that it understands that, since mid-2016, UK Home Office interviews have changed the focus from quiz-like general knowledge questions (which an asylum seeker may or may not even understand, let alone happen to know the answer to) to questions such as their experiences of living in their own country and how and why they came to convert to Christianity. The UK Home Office published its response to the criticisms in Sept 2016.
Photo captions: 1) An Iranian convert to Christianity attends a course in Berlin preparing him for baptism. (AFP/Clemens Bilan). 2) Refugees lining up to be baptized in Germany.3) Dan Wooding.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 76, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria, West Africa, of British missionary parents, Alfred and Anne Wooding, who then worked with the Sudan Interior Mission, now known as SIM. He now lives in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder/president of the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and is also the author or co-author of some 45 books. He has a weekly radio show and two TV programs all based in Southern California.
** You may republish this or any of our ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net). Please tell your friends and colleagues that they can receive a complimentary subscription to our news service by going to the above website and signing up there.