In the 1800s, London became a haven for tens of thousands of Russian Jews fleeing their czarist homeland. Today, a similar scene takes place in the United Kingdom, but this time the refugees are Muslim converts to Christianity fleeing persecution in England or the Middle East.
Many Muslims who convert to Christianity face threats of death and harm, and friends and family turn them away. One organization in particular, Christian Concern, is helping converts find safe haven in homes, churches, and other places in the UK.
Christian Concern believes thousands of Muslims are anxious to convert and in need of housing so they can get back onto their feet after suffering verbal — and sometimes physical — attacks from families, friends and co-workers.
“We are motivated by a deep sense of love and compassion for those that feel trapped in a situation from which they cannot escape,” said Andrea Williams, the group’s chief executive.
“The penalty for converts at best is to be cut off from their family; at worst they face death,” she added. “This is happening not just in Sudan and Nigeria but in East London. The government has failed to deal with the rise in anti-Christian sentiment.”
Some of these converts are like Shokit Ali Sadiq, whose wife is also a Christian. He and his family received safe haven thanks to members of their church. Sadiq now works to convert others from Islam to Christianity, and he says that many Muslims want to convert but are afraid to do so.
“There are hundreds of people out there who want to leave Islam,” said Sadiq. “But they’re frightened of making their desire known.”
Others are like a woman who went unnamed for her interview. She faced physical attacks from other women after becoming a Christian. She prays that “one day my own family will have me back.”
Twenty-three-year-old Ali, whose former friends stabbed him and left him for dead when he converted in Pakistan at age 17, fled to England, where these same young men from his hometown tracked him down and threatened him again. He now works at a store and lives essentially in hiding,but he is hopeful that he can return to Pakistan one day to do the same work that saved his life.
“My life’s ambition,” he said, “is to return and start a charity that would provide safe houses for Muslims who convert to Christianity.”