Over 40,000 Christian refugees in Germany are routinely being harassed for their religion, and government officials have kept mum about it, leaving the sympathetic police to bring the issue public through reports by activist groups.
Ironically, the culprits are fellow migrants and Muslim countrymen from war-torn countries of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The threat includes forcing them to join Islam prayers.
Open Doors, a Christian activist group that started by smuggling Bibles into Eastern Europe in 1955, conducted a survey that found a overwhelming number of Christian refugees in Germany claim to have been persecuted by fellow refugees and security staff.
Interviews conducted with 231 individuals over the past two months revealed the following:
- 96 refugees said they were the target of regular insults;
- 86 refugees claim to have suffered bodily harm due to their faith;
- 73 refugees said they or family members faced death threats;
In addition, physical attacks against Christians take the form of "punches, spitting, pushing and sexual abuse."
However, church and state officials have considered the case isolated, not a systematic problem.
"We have to tell the truth to protect the Christian minority. Our political leaders are not taking measures about it," said Markus Rode, head of the German-based organization Open Doors citing the survey they made with the help of other groups Kirche in Not, the Action on Behalf of Persecuted Christians and the Needy and the Central Council for Oriental Christians in Germany.
"The impression that this dramatic development is being suppressed and ignored has solidified," Rode said referring to the survey result where 88 percent of the respondents admitted they have been harassed because of their religion.
A pastor in Berlin also reported that Christian refugees were threatened if they won't take part in Islam prayers.
"This is only a tip of the iceberg, and truth of the fact there is a mood of fear and panic among many of the Christian refugees," read the report of Open Door.
Rode said they're doing the survey on behalf of many volunteers who feel intimidated and the request of the police, who aren't allowed to say that this is happening.
Fadi S, a Syrian refugee, said he strived hard to escape religious extremism in his country, but was shocked to meet a Muslim fundamentalist in their camp.
Among those surveyed by Open Doors, 80 percent saw a need for separate accommodation for Christians and Muslims. Others suggest the need for seminars to be held for all refugees on German law, rights and the freedom of religion. Further suggestions included the need for special training for security staff at the asylum centres and hostels to be able to cope with conflicts caused by religious differences.
Last year Germany received over a million immigrants, mostly from North Africa and the Middle East. The number of influx dwindled in January this year.