In the midst of the controversy surrounding Muslim refugees flooding into Europe, the pastor of one small church in Berlin is claiming that hundreds of refugees are turning to Christianity at the church he leads.
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.”
Zanoobi is one of hundreds of mostly Iranian and Afghan asylum seekers who have been baptised at Trinity Church.
While many among Martens’ congregation welcome the new believers, some are skeptical that the refugees are converting out of genuine spiritual concerns. Those who are doubtful about the new converts claim that refugees are claiming to embrace Christianity because they believe a conversion will gain them an advantage in staying in Germany.
Congregation member Vesam Heydari told AP, “The majority of Iranians here are not converting out of belief… They only want to stay in Germany.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Islam ‘belongs in Germany’ and that claiming to be Christian does not guarantee a successful asylum application.
Martens acknowledges that some converts may be doing so out of opportunism, but he believes that the vast majority of new congregants have sincerely turned to the Gospel.
Martens… says [that] once in church, most people do engage and that around 90 per cent of converts continue attending after they have been baptised.
“I know there are – again and again – people coming here because they have some kind of hope regarding their asylum,” Martens said. “I am inviting them to join us because I know that whoever comes here will not be left unchanged.”
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Benguhan