Future of Islam
Hundreds of Refugees in Germany Convert to Christianity

A must-read article in Christianity Today profiles a church in Berlin that has seen astonishing growth from Muslim refugees who have converted to Christianity:

Pastor Gottfried Martens has seen his congregation at the evangelical Trinity Church grow from 150 to more than 600 in just two years, describing the number of conversions as a ‘miracle’, according to Associated Press.

One of these converts is Mohammed Ali Zonoobi, a carpenter from Shiraz, Iran, who was recently baptised.

Zanoobi was introduced to the Bible aged 18 and attended secret services in Iran. When several of his Christian friends were arrested, he fled with his wife and two children to Germany.

For Zonoobi and his wife Afsaneh their baptism 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.”

As touching as Zonoobi’s story is, cynical observers—including among the refugees—suspect more worldly motives behind the spate of conversions:

However, there are concerns that some are not genuine converts, rather professing a Christian faith to boost chances of staying in the country. […]

Congregation member Vesam Heydari told AP, “The majority of Iranians here are not converting out of belief… They only want to stay in Germany.”

This certainly wouldn’t be historically unusual. People can have lots of motives for changing religions; many converts to Islam over the centuries converted to get better jobs, avoid discrimination, and pay less in taxes.

So this is not necessarily a sign of some kind of spiritual awakening. But it does demonstrate a deep and profound disenchantment with the world that Islam has created in the Middle East—or rather that the clash of radical Islamist visions and identities has created in the region. Viewed in this light, the conversions can be seen less as a vote “for” Christianity in many cases than a vote “against” the tragic realities of the Middle East today.

That points to a danger for Islam: The pressures of intellectual and social modernization colliding with sectarian radicalism—and all in a region characterized by repeated economic and political failures—can create a civilizational crisis of confidence. Some respond by radical fundamentalism, trying to drown out the disturbing and critical voices in their own heads. Others say nothing but quietly distance themselves from the ideologies and practices of a world they see as failing. Some struggle to develop a concept of their faith that is resilient and open enough to coexist with modernity. And still others look for alternatives in other belief systems, religious and non-religious.

All these responses and more are taking place in the Middle East and elsewhere today. We shouldn’t miss that the internal crisis in Islamic civilization is as deep and as difficult as the external crisis we see unfolding on the beaches of Europe and in the killing fields of war-torn Middle Eastern countries.

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