“Will you break away from Satan and his evil deeds?” pastor Gottfried Martens asks Iranian refugee Mohammed Ali Zonoobi. “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 Berlin.
Like Zonoobi, most say true belief prompted their embrace of Christianity. But there’s no overlooking the fact that the decision will also greatly boost their chances of winning asylum by allowing them to claim they would face persecution if sent home. It is unlikely that Germany would deport converted Iranian and Afghan refugees back home as they face imprisonment and even death. But for pastor Martens 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.
Pastor Martens says, “I am inviting them to join us because I know that whoever comes here will not be left unchanged.” As other churches across Germany struggle with dwindling numbers of believers, Martens has seen his congregation swell from 150 just two years ago to more than 600 parishioners now – with a seemingly unending flow of new refugees finding the way to his congregation. 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, 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.
In Germany, hundreds have found a surrogate home in Martens’ church. An exuberant and lively pastor who speaks conversational Farsi, he has garnered a large following. In 2012, he was named
“Pastor of the Year” because of his work with Iranian refugees. “It is my impression that there is really a kind of Christian awakening in Iran at the moment with pretty large dimensions,” he says. “People who come to us have already had these contacts with house churches and have had to flee because of that.”
Source: The Guardian; CBN Europe
Bible Study: Jeremiah 16:19-21
PRAISE God for all these refugees who have renounced the faith of their fathers to follow Christ.
PRAY that these converts may grow into disciples who will be instrumental in leading many European Muslims to Christ.