Is the human dignity of Christian converts in question?
“Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.”
With this important article of its Constitution, the Federal Republic of Germany commits itself to particularly respect and protect the individual human rights of each individual.
This principle also applies to the refugees Germany received, especially at the height of the so-called “refugee crisis” in 2015 and 2016, to protect them from war and persecution.
Human dignity includes the right to choose one’s faith, which is protected by the right to freedom of religion. In the Muslim countries of origin, from whence many of the refugees stem, little attention is paid to this right. While the general population is also affected by lack of religious freedom, adherents of non-Muslim religions such as Christians are most negatively impacted. In countries such as Syria, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, conversion to the Christian faith or another religion is treated as apostasy, a crime worthy of death according to Islamic jurisprudence.
The countries of origin of most refugees rank near the top on the World Watch List published annually by Open Doors, where Christians are exposed to a very high to extreme degree of persecution. For most refugees, the desire for peace also includes the ability to freely choose and live their faith without fear of reprisal by the state, extremists or even their relatives.
Tens of thousands of refugees have accepted the Christian faith in Germany. They were baptized here and participate in the life of the church communities. Therefore it is of great concern to us, that the asylum procedures of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) as well as the administrative courts, give little heed to the leaders of these congregations and their assessment of the refugees’ faith. Open Doors made this observation already in the October 2019 survey and asked for improvements. Compounding the issue, the administrative courts are often guided
by the decisions of the BAMF, causing even the most vulnerable Christian converts to receive asylum less frequently than in the first years of the refugee crisis. In several cases, refugee converts have been deported to countries such as Afghanistan or Iran.
An overhaul of the asylum procedures on the basis of Article 1 of the Constitution would lead to equal protection of the right to religious freedom for all people in our country. Rejection letters that disregard the free expression of a convert’s faith and the affidavits of the clergy caring for them, deprive refugees of their human dignity.
Certainly, there are outliers who merely feign conversion for tactical purposes. However, these individual cases must not be used to cast doubt on all refugees and assume ulterior motives behind their conversion. Especially Iranian asylum seekers are often confronted with this suspicion. In fact, however, especially in Iran there has been a high number of conversions for years despite severe persecution.
The representative survey about asylum procedures and administrative decisions presented here is the second of its kind. It should serve as a basis for reevaluation of current practices. I very much hope that this report will improve the situation of Christian converts in Germany, many of whom are traumatized enough. It is crucial to strengthen the obvious lack of trust that politicians have in the clergy of all churches and in Christian converts.
In a time of an increased persecution of Christians worldwide, a reconning is needed for politicians, judges and the BAMF decision-makers to take seriously their responsibility to protect human dignity – especially of those who are persecuted because of their faith. May this survey make an important contribution to this end.
CEO Open Doors Germany