It’s not the first article out there about Muslim immigrants to German converting to Christianity but it’s almost certainly the most recent. But the Daily Beast, in reporting on the trend, predictably managed to link this trend to the U.S. presidential elections.
Which was unfortunate, in that the story of thousands of Muslims jettisoning their faith to become Christian is a continuing saga and a decent story in its own right.
Lots of outlets, ranging from the Daily Mail and the Times of Israel to Catholic World Report and NPR (click here for previous GetReligion posts) have reported on Muslims converting by the thousands, especially those from countries like Iran and Afghanistan and Pakistan where conversions from Islam into another religion means an automatic death sentence. This is the first time these folks have been able to choose their own religion or no religion.
We’re talking statistics like 600 Persian converts descending on one church in Hamburg. So, the Daily Beast has waded in with the inevitable political angle:
AMSTERDAM -- Hundreds of Pakistanis and Afghans have been lining up at a local swimming pool in Hamburg, Germany, to be baptized as Christians. In the Netherlands and Denmark, as well, many are converting from Islam to Christianity, and the trend appears to be growing. Indeed, converts are filling up some European churches largely forsaken by their old Christian flocks.
All of which raises a question, not least, for the United States: If American presidential candidate Donald Trump gets elected and bars Muslims from entering the country, as he says he will, would the ban apply to Christians who used to be Muslims? How would one judge the quality of their faith?
For the moment, that quandary is a ways off for U.S. Homeland Security, but in Europe even now the phenomenon is fraught with echoes of the past, problems in the present, and omens for the future. Forced conversions of Muslims and Jews during the Spanish Inquisition were a dark page in Europe’s history. More than a little suspicion surrounds some of the current conversions, seen by some to be cynical bids to improve the chance of getting asylum. And, looking forward, it’s potentially quite dangerous for those who embrace the Gospel to return to homelands where abandoning Islam for another faith can be treated as a capital crime.
The article goes on to discuss what’s known as “friendship evangelism” -- the natives befriending the recent arrivals, inviting them into their homes and if the visitors find Christianity attractive, all the better.
Unfortunately there are no quotes from actual refugees themselves other than something lifted from the German magazine Stern. The article looks like semi-aggregation or a phoner, as the video that goes with it isn’t directly related to the article.
At least the reporter gets quotes from Dutch Christians, who are working just as hard as their German counterparts to befriend refugees and encourage them to consider Christianity.
I suspect the question that starts out the article is academic, as a Trump-friendly immigration policy barring Muslims would not apply to recent converts from Islam. It’s a non-story.
I would have liked a fresher angle, such as one dug up by Breitbart.com a few months ago that described the reception these new Christian converts are getting from fellow (still Muslim) refugees at refugee centers in Berlin. In a word, it’s not welcoming and the Iranian converts especially fear for their lives.
Or, like this Christian Science Monitor piece from back in February about how Swedish churches are hauling in the converts. None of them went looking but Kurds, Persians and Syrians just showed up at their doors. Being that many Protestant churches there are half empty, no one is complaining. Or maybe a story mentioning that Ramadan is coming up in two weeks and some Christian ministries are using that time to pray for Muslims.
We've had this whole narrative about Muslims immigrating into Europe and planning to overwhelm the populations there with radical Islam only to find out that a number of Muslims are dumping their religion the moment they set foot there. Are the new converts bringing other refugees into the Christian fold?
The bottom line: This story has lots of legs and I'm hoping more reporters can get out there and find the angles.