Date: January 26, 2017
By World Watch Monitor
Jan. 16, 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.
Rev. Gottfried Martens, who has baptised 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 jeopardise their applications.
Martens, pastor of the Lutheran Dreieinigkeits Gemeinde (Trinity Community), criticised 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.
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 criticised 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 (of which EKD is a member), said he would meet with politicians to express concern about the way that Iranian and Afghan converts are being treated.
In addition, last week (9 Jan) 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 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.