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Persecution of Christians in Middle East being replicated in European refugee shelters

28 October 2016

Since 2015 Barnabas Fund has been repeatedly raising concerns about persecution of Christians in refugee shelters in a range of European countries. Since then a number of reports have been published documenting how widespread this is.

In April 2006 a report by the International Christian Consulate (ICC) described horrific levels of persecution of Christians in refugee camps in Greece. One Western doctor working in the camps observed:

“(the camp) would have been fine if you were a Muslim. I wouldn’t even think of going there as a Christian trying to live there… If you’re a Christian in there, you can forget about it - it would be really dangerous.

“These camps are like mini Iran or mini Afghanistan, with the same persecution as what they left in their home countries. I can see that even from what I’m looking at medically.”

These comments mirror a report Barnabas Fund produced as evidence to a UK parliamentary select committee in November 2015 which showed that Christians avoided refugee camps in the Middle East because they were dominated by Islamists and too dangerous for non-Muslims. Now the same pattern of persecution is emerging in European refugee shelters as documented by various reports:

In May 2016 a group of five Christian organisations in Germany held a press conference to release a survey showing that 88% of Christian refugees they interviewed had experienced religiously motivated persecution in the refugee shelters, while 32% had received death threats.

In June ICC produced a further report on the persecution of Christians in Greek refugee camps which again resembled the sort of reports local church leaders give to Barnabas Fund about the situation of Christian refugees in the Middle East:

In one case we had to extract Christians from hostile accommodation in the middle of the night and remove them to a safe house following attacks.”

Now a further report has been produced by the group of Christian organisations that produced last May’s report. This survey, based on interviews with 743 Christian refugees from every region of Germany, makes horrific reading: 56% of Christian refugees interviewed reported having been physically assaulted, 42% had received death threats and 6% reported sexual assaults.  Ten Yazidi refugees in Germany were also interviewed and reported similar persecution.

Yet despite this, the report quotes a letter sent in August by the Minister of the Interior in the federal state of Nord-Rhine Westphalia, where 17% of the attacks occurred, claiming that:

“My department has no knowledge of any religiously motivated attacks on Christian refugees or other religious minorities in the facilities of this federal state. There are also no reports confirming that Christians, Yezidis or other religious minorities in the refugee centres are at risk.”

The report highlighted the fact that 51% of those being persecuted were former Muslims who had become Christians, almost a third of whom had converted in Germany. Yet even when they left the refugee camps, violence from other refugees often followed them onto the streets. This is a common experience of converts from Islam due to the penalty for apostasy law in sharia being death for any adult male who leaves Islam for another faith.

This is an issue that Barnabas Fund has been raising for many years. It affects not just refugees: any former Muslim who converts to Christianity is vulnerable. Violence against converts is in fact widespread in the West.

Even in the UK we are aware of some former Muslims who are under armed police protection because of immediate threats to their lives.  Yet, in the same way that the interior minister in Germany’s Nord-Rhine Westphalia refused to even admit that there was an issue, the UK government still ignores the problem. For example, the UK’s new Hate Crime Action Plan released at the end of July fails to even mention this. When Barnabas Fund took this up with the UK government, the minister assured us that they were concerned about hate crime against Christians - but did not address the central issue of why they are failing even to acknowledge the widespread problem of violence against Christians who have converted from Islam.