Newsletter: Germany must do more to protect Christian converts

Posted on: October 31, 2019

Country: Germany

31 October 2019
Germany must do more to protect Christian converts

The relief organization for persecuted Christians, Open Doors Germany, presented a recent report on the situation of 6,516 Christian converts in Germany at a press conference in Berlin on Monday, October 28th. In the representative survey "Schutz für Konvertiten vor Abschiebung in Länder mit Christenverfolgung" (Protection of converts from deportation to countries with persecution of Christians) data and evidence from 179 congregations from various churches across Germany were evaluated.

The result: Fewer and fewer converts receive asylum protection. Many are threatened with deportation to countries in which conversion from Islam is considered a crime worthy of death.
Acceptance rate halved since July 2017
In collaboration with partners "Internationale Informationsstelle für Religionsfreiheit Deutschland" (IIRF-D) and "Professur für Religionsfreiheit und Erforschung der Christenverfolgung, Freie Theologische Hochschule Giessen," Open Doors examined the current situation of refugees who have turned to the Christian faith. In the course of their asylum proceedings, many of them were confronted with the accusation of having faked their change of faith. This would severely discredit them, as well as the ministers and pastors who attested to the seriousness of the faith these converts. However, even in the rare cases of "fake conversion," the refugees would nonetheless likely face persecution upon deportation to their countries of origin.
The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) issued positive decisions for converts in 67.9 per cent of the hearings before 1 July 2017, according to the municipalities participating in the survey. After this date, the number dropped to 36.3 per cent. Converts from Iran, with 4,557 persons seeking protection, represented the largest group within the survey, followed by refugees from Afghanistan and Syria. After 1 July 2017, what converts could expect in terms of persecution in the event of deportation to their country of origin played a role in fewer and fewer BAMF decisions. Their particular vulnerability was not recognized or was deliberately ignored.

No uniform case law
According to the BAMF, the "seriousness of the change of faith" of converts and whether the change of faith was "identity-forming" was examined in the hearings. This would be used to assess whether—and how intensively—converts would practice their faith after deportation to their home countries. This would determine whether they would therefore be at risk for persecution. According to the survey, 45 per cent of converts had not been granted asylum by the BAMF, nor had the BAMF issued a ban on deportation to their countries of origin. Almost all those who were rejected then brought an action before the Administrative Court (VG), which had granted 63 per cent of the applications—at least in part.
It is noteworthy that the acceptance rate of converts among the Administrative Courts varies greatly from state to state. The rate in the Berlin Administrative Court, similar to the average in Baden-Württemberg, is at most 20 per cent, but in Hesse and some eastern federal states it is over 80 per cent. There is no uniform case law.
Church certificates reduce chances for recognition
If a convert presents a certificate from his church about the seriousness of his conversion to Christianity and his faith practice, his chances of a positive decision by the BAMF would decrease. The assertion often expressed by politicians and authorities that the change of faith of many converts is not genuine contradicts the assessment of the ministers and pastors: In the survey they confirmed a genuine change of faith in 88.1 per cent of converts seeking protection.

Ban on deportation of converts to Muslim countries is necessary
Open Doors spokesman Ado Greve said on Monday that nationwide ban on the deportation of converts to Muslim countries where their lives would be in danger is necessary. A prerequisite should be that a pastor has attested to the seriousness of the conversion and identity as a Christian. 

The former CDU/CSU parliamentary party leader Volker Kauder reiterated the view he had expressed in the run-up to the press conference: "Germany, as a country with freedom of religion, must not deport converts to countries where Christians are persecuted." He said that Germany must show that it takes religious freedom seriously. Those who support it must also support the right to conversion. The human right to religious freedom is “the most existential human right of all, because there is no freedom anywhere in the world where there is no religious freedom."
According to the study authors, the Protestant Church in Germany (EKD) and the German Catholic Bishops' Conference declined to participate in the survey.
The executive summary of the survey can be found here (Deutsch); the entire
survey "Protection for converts from deportation to countries with persecution of Christians" can be found here (English) and here (Deutsch); and the methodology can be found here (Deutsch).
Sources: Press Release APDKathPressOpen Doors Germany
Photo credit: Open Doors Germany