BERLIN: Hundreds of Afghan and Iranian refugees, seeking asylum in Germany have converted their religion to Christianity at the evangelical Trinity Church in a leafy Berlin neighborhood.
Ali, who dressed all in white for his baptism on Sunday, said he had attended secret religious services in Iran ever since friends introduced him to the Bible at age 18. He decided to flee to Germany after several Christian friends were arrested for practicing their religion.
For Ali and his wife – who since her baptism goes by the name of Katarina – the christening marks a new beginning. “Now we are free and can be ourselves,” she said. “Most important, I am so happy that our children will have a good future here and can get a good education in Germany.”
Germany is witnessing an unprecedented surge of asylum-seekers this year, with the number of migrants expected to reach 800,000 this year, a fourfold increase on last year.
Many of the new arrivals come from Muslim countries such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan. While refugees from civil-war-torn Syria will almost definitely be receiving asylum status, the situation is more complicated for asylum seekers from Iran or Afghanistan, which are seen as more stable.
In recent years, roughly 40-50 per cent from those two countries have been allowed to stay in the country, with many of those getting only temporary permission to remain.
*Names have been changed to protect identity.