'Since I became a Christian I fear no one': Refugee explains mass conversions from Islam
In Austria there have been at least 300 applications for adult christenings in the first three months of 2016 alone, with up to 70 percent of those said to be refugees, the Guardian reported.
At Berlin's Trinity church the congregation has recently grown from 150 to almost 700, the newspaper said.
In Hamburg more than 80 Muslim refugees from Iran and Afghanistan converted to Christianity and were baptized last week alone, German magazine Stern reported.
“I’ve been spat on, told that I've betrayed Islam. But through what I've learned, I can forgive them,” one man who was recently baptized a Christian told RT in Hamburg.
“Since I became a Christian I fear no one,” a young woman added.
Among the most popular reasons behind the conversion is faith in a new religion, triggered by “lack of freedom” in Islam, and gratitude to Christians offering help to refugees fleeing war-torn countries.
"I've been looking all my life for peace and happiness, but in Islam, I have not found it," Shima, an Iranian refugee, told Stern magazine. "To be a Christian means happiness to me," she added.
"In Islam, we always lived in fear. Fear God, fear of sin, fear of punishment. However, Christ is a God of love," another Iranian refugee, Solmaz, told the German daily.
On the flip side, living in a mostly Muslim community can turn out to be a real challenge for a Christian refugee.
“You can see clearly that conversions are not really taken into consideration as an advantage for accepting an asylum case. We have even seen many cases where Christians have been sent back even if they were Christians already before they came to Europe. The risk is too great for most of them to convert. Traditionally this is punished, at least expulsion from the family up to beatings and even killings against family members who convert,” geopolitical analyst and consultant Rainer Rothfuss told RT.
Opponents of Europe's open-door policy have also voiced their concerns. Many fear that migrants can take advantage of the asylum system by claiming Christianity, hoping that conversion may somehow speed up their asylum applications.
“There are some refugees that have understood that the way Islam is handled in state ideology is part of the political program of the country they have fled. And so if they then want to convert to Christianity this is very welcome of course. But there might be some refugees who learned that conversion to Christianity helps receive the status of asylum. Then of course it may be a different situation and I think all in all there should be a portion of skepticism towards this phenomenon,” Frank Hansel, member of the right-wing Alternative for Germany party, told RT.
Europe is currently facing its worst refugee crisis since World War II. Most asylum seekers arriving on the continent are from the Middle East and particularly Syria, where 250,000 people have been killed and more than 12 million displaced since a civil war began in 2011, according to UN figures.
Last year alone some 1.8 million asylum-seekers entered the European Union, fleeing war and poverty in Middle-Eastern countries, according to data from the European Union border agency Frontex. Around 1.1 million refugees came to Germany in 2015.