A migrant prays at a temporary shelter in a sports hall in Hanau, Germany, on September 29, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-VIOLENCE-REFUGEES, originally transmitted on June 3, 2016.

Growing concern for German churches: Muslim refugees harassing Christians

(RNS) Germany’s refugee crisis is challenging the country’s main religious groups as they try to balance a welcoming attitude to the mostly Muslim migrants and concern for the welfare of the minority Christians among them.

Increasingly, accounts of Muslim migrants ganging up on Christians and other minorities in refugee shelters have raised concerns.

Germany is dealing with an influx of about 1 million newcomers from the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Scattered media reports since last fall have spoken of radical Muslims harassing Christians and other religious minorities, making them feel threatened and under pressure to convert to Islam.

The issue got national attention in early May when five minority rights groups held a news conference in Berlin to present what they said was widespread persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in refugee centers.

Open Doors Germany, a group affiliated with the international Open Doors movement to help persecuted Christians, presented a report that said 88 percent of the 231 Christian refugees they interviewed reported having suffered religiously motivated persecution in the form of insults, death threats and physical and sexual attacks.

Some felt pressure to convert and reported that Muslims were harassing them by playing loud recordings of Quran chanting. Almost half of them said they were mistreated by security guards, who are mostly Muslim foreigners who speak the refugees’ languages.

Markus Rode, the group’s chairman, said there was an “atmosphere of fear and panic” among Christian refugees and the mainstream churches were ignoring the problem.

“I really didn’t know that after coming to Germany I would be harassed because of my faith in the very same way as back in Iran,” the report quoted one refugee as saying.

Another group, Action for Persecuted Christians, estimated that 40,000 refugees in Germany, mostly Christians, were victims of religious persecution.

“These are not isolated cases. I don’t know of any refugee shelter from Garmisch to Hamburg where we have not found such cases,” said Paulus Kurt from the Central Council of Oriental Christians in Germany.

Pastor Gottfried Martens from the evangelical Trinity Church in Berlin, which works closely with Christian converts mostly from Iran and Afghanistan, called for separate shelters for Muslims and Christians.

“When a house is burning, it’s not enough to talk about fire prevention measures,” he said. “You have to pull the people out.”

The Open Doors Germany report said the authorities should register the religious affiliation of refugees and provide separate housing for Muslims and for Christians and other religious minorities. It also called for more non-Muslim security staff.

Although the news conference attracted media attention, leading German news outlets soon questioned the report’s methodology and the neutrality of the speakers. Der Spiegel newsweekly said Open Doors Germany “is controversial because it is close to the evangelicals and therefore not nondenominational.”

After those news reports were published, the Catholic bishops conference said it had surveyed its dioceses around Germany for information about the refugee situation.

“This survey suggests that intimidation and discrimination (including violence) against Christians in refugee centers are not a common problem, but they do come up repeatedly and need to be taken seriously,” it said in a statement. “The bishops conference does not think it is possible to quantify the problem.”

Berlin’s Protestant Bishop Markus Droege said his church took reports of religious persecution of Christians very seriously but did not see a general hostility to them in refugee centers.

A spokesman for the Evangelical Church in Germany, the national association of Protestant churches, rejected the idea of separate shelters according to religion. “In Germany, there must be religious freedom everywhere and for everyone, and guaranteed by the state,” he said.

The insistence by the main churches on helping all refugees without stigmatizing some of them has irritated the far-right Alternative for Germany, which has stoked suspicion of Islam to gain support among Germans concerned about the influx of refugees.

A war of words broke out after the party was not invited to attend the Catholic Assembly in Leipzig last month (May 25-29), a large festival that includes panel discussions between Catholic leaders and prominent politicians.

Alternative for Germany chairwoman Frauke Petry accused the churches of not doing enough for Middle Eastern Christians.

“Some leaders of German churches speak out more for Muslims than for their co-religionists,” she charged. “There is a clear imbalance here.”

Petr Bystron, the party’s Bavaria chairman, said the churches were profiting “under cover of loving their neighbor” by exploiting volunteers to care for refugees while taking in billions of euros in government subsidies for the shelters they run.

“If this was about belief and not about business, the churches must be skeptical about the influx of Muslims,” he wrote in an article for the German website of The Huffington Post. “This show of friendliness to refugees finances a gigantic welfare industry organized under the aegis of the churches.”

The two main churches dismissed the accusations as ignorant and misguided.

Apart from the refugee work of their charity branches, the main churches have joined Jewish and Muslim organizations in a project to support local interfaith initiatives that help refugees deal with bureaucracy, find homes and jobs, and learn German.

To qualify for government support, all interfaith projects must include one Muslim partner.

At the project’s launch in Berlin on Tuesday (May 31), senior Interior Ministry official Guenter Krings announced a government subsidy of 500,000 euros ($566,211) and said religious groups “make an important contribution to integrating refugees and strengthening our social cohesion.”

Abraham Lehrer, vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told the meeting that interfaith projects were more important than ever because the refugee influx challenged Germans to ask “how we can peacefully live together in this pluralistic and multireligious society.”

(Tom Heneghan is a correspondent based in Paris)


  1. The headline is pretty darned misleading, making an unwarrantedly ugly impression. The very salient information found in the story that is neglect is this:

    “Increasingly, accounts of Muslim migrants ganging up on Christians and other minorities in refugee shelters have raised concerns.”

    That Muslim refugees should mistreat Christian refugees is bad enough; but your headline suggests that Muslim refugees are mistreating their German hosts, which isn’t what this story is about. Please correct this ugly misrepresentation.

  2. I would respectfully disagree. The headline is not “misleading,” nor does it “suggest” that “Muslim refugees are mistreating their German hosts” [though they are that as well, e.g., the increase in sexual assaults of German women, but as you note, that is not the point of this story]. The headline in no way “suggests” mistreatment of Germans, but the concern of the German Churches (which is outlined in the body of the story) regarding assaults on Christian refugees in the refugee centers. The Churches in Germany are legitimately concerned with the well-being/safety of other Christians.

  3. There should not be any kind of harassment of Christians by Muslims. In fact, between and among the various religions of the world there should not be any kind of harassment at all. One who calls himself or herself a “Muslim” knows that it is wrong to harass any human being. The Five Pillars of Islam teach us to work on ourselves, on our own shortcomings, while at the same time showing love, grace, kindness and charity to others. Those Muslims that harass or harm other human beings from their own faith or any faith show that they do not know or practice their own religion correctly……

  4. It is a legitimate concern, but upon reading the headline I had the same impression as Danny.

  5. Apparently the new immigrants need to learn immediately that all religions exist together in Germany. I would suggest that anyone caught harassing others for any reason simply be sent back. There would need to be a standard of proof of course, but that seems like an effective tool. Muslim factionalism must not be exported.

    To be fair, it is a massive adjustment for immigrants from the Middle East to Western government and economy. In Minnesota, my home, we have a large Middle Eastern immigrant community, 30,000+. The governments they came from often had minimal regulations and those that did exist were often expected to be satisfied via bribes. While it’s been tough, Muslims has proved to be astute business people – within the law.

  6. Everybody doesn’t practice Islam the same way. Outside of America, the reality is that it’s considered okay for Muslims to threaten and “mistreat” (euphemism alert!) Christians.

    Don’t look for the government of Germany or any other European government to do anything about this situation. Period.

  7. John C. Kimbrough ” There should not be any kind of harassment of Christians by Muslims ” Whom are you kidding Muslims have been harassing Christians and Jews from the time of so called profit mo-ham-mad 1436 years . And don’t expect it to stop now. ” One who calls himself or herself a ”Muslim” knows that it is wrong to harass any human being ” Quran Sura 9:123” O’ Believers make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Let them find firmness in you. Know that Allah is with the righteous ” ”The five pillars of Islam ……while at the same time showing love, grace , kindness and charity to others ” You Muslims have never shown those qualities among yourselves, than how can you show that to non Muslims/infidels. So stop lying . ”Those Muslims that harass or harm other human beings…..or practice their own religion correctly ” Quran Sura 9:111” Allah has purchased from the faithful their lives and worldly goods and in return has promised them paradise. They will fight for the cause of Allah , they will Kill and be Killed .. ” Sura 2:193 ” Fight against them[ infidels/kafirs ] until idolatry ids no more and Allah’s religion reigns supreme ” You must be a new convert to Islam that’s why you defend it Read a book by Bat Ye’or ” The Decline Of The Eastern Christianity Under Islam ”

  8. The Germans like many others allowed too many wolves amongst the lambs and now they and the citizens of these nations are paying the price. When you allow multitudes of people who refuse to accept the notion of religious pluralism and free expression of and from religion you have what is developing in Europe and the UK which is the foundation of a jihadist war.

  9. If there are 40 thousand middle East Christians spread out, that’s enough to put in one place all together.
    To think 6 th century Muslim thinking is going to accept a Christian sleeping beside him, that’s just German bull headed thinking. Remember Merle said integration is a fail. So why r the German govt still allowing Christians to be with the rest of the Muslims. Way way past time to separate

  10. Muslim Refugees Harassing Christians in Germany
    Growing concern for German churches: Muslim refugees harassing Christians
    The Kurdistan Brothers – Muslim Converts –

    A brother is born for adversity according to an old proverb and the
    two brothers in the following story illustrate the truth of that saying.
    When the younger one broke with tradition the older one wanted to break
    his neck. This is the true story of Syeed and Kocka, two brothers from
    Kurdistan who were adversaries until their minds, and hearts and lives
    were unshackled.

  11. Put a leash and a bikini on Merkel. Put her in the shelter with the Muslims. Nope; that won’t do , even they would stay away from that HAG!

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