Imagine being forced to flee your home because you faced persecution for your faith. Now imagine facing that same persecution from fellow migrants in your new asylum home.
That’s the reality for Iranian Christian converts who’ve sought refuge in Hamburg, Germany only to find themselves having to hide their faith once again—this time from the Muslim migrants in their refugee camp.
After years of attending illegal Bible studies in Iran, a 33-year-old by the pseudonym of Dena Kasravi is still having to hide her Christian faith in her new Germany. “If they find out, I will be fair game,” Kasravi told Die Zeit. “Everyone will have the right to destroy me. Some Muslims even think it is their obligation.”
Security guards at the Hamburg camps have advised Iranian Christians not to openly display their faith—no wearing crosses or leaving Bibles out in the open. There is no guarantee, the guards say, that they will be safe if the Muslim migrants discover them as Christian converts.
Still, the Christians have set up a secret church at their migrant camp despite constant watch and scrutiny by the Muslim refugees. Kasravi had to lie about having a health problem when she was questioned about not fasting for Ramadan. Another young Iranian Christian convert reports being asked daily why she wasn’t wearing hijab.
“I can’t get rid of the fear,” Kasravi said.
In the last year, 108 Christians were arrested in the Islamic republic for attending underground churches as Christian activity is forbidden in Iran except among Armenians and Assyrians, the only groups allowed to practice their Christian faith there.
As Iranian Christian converts continue to seek asylum in Germany, the number of Christians in Hamburg has increased. The Alpha and Omega International Church reports having 450 members now, up from about 250 members last year.