Maybe it doesn’t matter if the many Muslims converting to Christianity are doing it for worldly reasons.
This story may show us that God, despite all the sin and unbelief in the world, may be having mercy on us: “At a Berlin church, Muslim refugees converting in droves.”
Mohammed Ali Zonoobi bends his head as the priest pours holy water over his black hair. “Will you break away from Satan and his evil deeds?” pastor Gottfried Martens asks the Iranian refugee. “Will you break away from Islam?”
“Yes,” Zonoobi fervently replies. Spreading his hands in blessing, Martens then baptizes the man “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.”
Mohammed is now Martin — no longer Muslim, but Christian.
Zonoobi, a carpenter from the Iranian city of Shiraz, arrived in Germany with his wife and two children five months ago. He is one of hundreds of mostly Iranian and Afghan asylum seekers who have converted to Christianity at the evangelical Trinity Church in a leafy Berlin neighborhood.
According to the story, this is not only happening at Trinity Church.
Other Christian communities across Germany, among them Lutheran churches in Hannover and the Rhineland, have also reported growing numbers of Iranians converting to Christendom. There are no exact numbers on how many Muslims have converted in Germany in recent years — and they are a tiny minority compared to the country’s overall 4 million Muslims. But at least for Berlin, Martens describes the number of conversions as nothing short of a “miracle.” And he says he has at least another 80 people — mostly refugees from Iran and a few Afghans — waiting to be baptized.
Even if the number of converts is relatively few, they are still vastly greater than only a short time ago. This is how great mountains begin to crumble. As news spread among Muslims that some of them are happy as Christians we might see the numbers increase. I suspect we will also see immigrant-on-immigrant attacks as the more committed Muslims try to imitate Mohammed in regard to these “apostates.” But that means we will have genuine martyrs. That should only fuel the growth of Christianity!
The main question that the article keeps coming back to is: Are these converts sincere or are they trying to gain asylum and avoid deportation?
Martens recognizes that some convert in order to improve their chances of staying in Germany — but for the pastor motivation is unimportant. Many, he said, are so taken by the Christian message that it changes their lives. And he estimates that only about 10 percent of converts do not return to church after christening.
“I know there are — again and again — people coming here because they have some kind of hope regarding their asylum,” Martens said. “I am inviting them to join us because I know that whoever comes here will not be left unchanged.”
Being Christian alone does not help an applicant, and Chancellor Angela Merkel went out of her way this week to reiterate that Islam “belongs in Germany.” But in Afghanistan and Iran, for example, conversion to Christianity by a Muslim could be punished by death or imprisonment, and it is therefore unlikely that Germany would deport converted Iranian and Afghan refugees back home.
None will openly admit to converting in order to help their asylum chances. To do so could result in rejection of their asylum bid and deportation as Christian converts. Several candidates for baptism at Martens’ church would not give their names out of fear of repercussions for their families back home.
So, on the face of it, there may be a worldly advantage to converting in order to stay in Germany.
Against that, we need to realize that, while a devout Muslim might be able to justify lying in some ways, no devout Muslim would submit to Christian baptism or verbally renounce Islam. If they really believed in Allah, still, they would never do such a thing. Secondly, any Muslim who converts is risking violence against himself and against any family members in his native country.
So, could some converts be insincere? Yes. Some nominal Muslims who don’t really fear the wrath of Allah might be switching to nominal Christianity. But, by doing so, they have made going back to Islam difficult for themselves and their families.
So, in the worst case scenario, these “fake” converts have put obstructions between themselves and the Islamic culture in which they were raised. They are now in a position that leaves them and their children much more open to the influence of the Gospel. It may not be absolute proof against problems (perhaps someday there will be a report of a terrorist who was trying to do penance for his own or his parents’ apostasy, but I think that is unlikely).
But, even if only half of the Muslim converts were staying at the church in which they were baptized, I would consider that fantastically hopeful. If Martens’ estimate is correct, and the ratio is closer to ninety percent, I don’t see how we can discount the evidence that we are seeing God at work in saving people from Islam.
It is something to pray for. It doesn’t mean that Europe is doing the right thing in its immigrant policy, but God sometimes turns evil to good. Perhaps, rather than the destruction of Europe, our children might see the rebirth of Europe.