Christian refugees who have recently migrated to Europe from the Middle East now living in refugee camps in Germany and elsewhere are frequently being targeted, harassed and even receiving death threats for their beliefs, a Christian advocacy group has found.
Refugees have reported cases of being treated as second-rate human beings by fellow refugees who are of Muslim faith and subject to physical assaults and verbal abuse by security staff, according to the results of a survey conducted by Open Doors, an organization documenting Christian persecution around the world.
A female refugee from Iran described how they “drew crosses and then crossed them out with an “X,” thus insulting us” and “threw their garbage in front of our door.”
“We had to leave the last accommodation where we stayed because of death threats,” she said.
“This survey proves it’s a widespread problem, and Germany and its government, just like all other Western countries, need to step up to protect Christian refugees,” Open Doors CEO David Curry said in an interview with The Foreign Desk.
“We have to look at this holistically. What are we saying about the value of religious freedom around the world when this is happening in the West?” Curry, who said the repeated calls to their team in Germany prompted Open Doors to look further into the pattern of instances and launch the study, said.
In some cases, religiously-motivated attacks have been brushed off as gender-based violence, as in the case of a Muslim man assaulting a Christian woman and similar cases reported by Open Doors.
The survey, conducted over seven weeks, involved 231 refugees, of whom 86% were Christian converts formerly belonging to the Muslim faith; 69% (160) were from Iran, 13% (30) from Afghanistan and 5% (11) from Syria.
Of those surveyed, 37% (86) said they had been physically assaulted, with 42% (96) suffering verbal abuse. Three quarters of those surveyed said they suffered repeated instances of abuse, and only 20% (46) of victims filed a complaint with police.
Instances of abuse have largely gone unreported due to language barriers as well as refugees feeling that they have no one they can tell, the report said.
As one Iranian refugee said, “I have fled from my own country to Germany hoping that my life would be safe from the impending dangers here, but I have been threatened even more in Germany.”
Many of the participants expressed fear in taking part in the survey because of past experience reporting to authorities in their home countries. In particular, Christian converts who were formerly Muslim, felt increasingly vulnerable, having previously lived with the fear of being discovered.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg with regards to what we know about Christian refugees,” Curry said.
“Western governments need to take action to organize their refugee camps to protect the people in these camps who have different beliefs.”
Christian converts live under a veil of secrecy in the Middle East. The slightest hint of conversion can lead to ejection from their families and communities, leaving many Christians feeling pressured to leave their countries of birth.
The most common recommendation put forward by Open Doors calls for Christian refugees to receive separate accommodations from their Muslim counterparts, and for Muslim security officials not to be assigned to them.
The report also makes several recommendations involving the registration of refugees’ religious affiliations and an equal proportion of Christian to Muslim refugee ratio in cases of shared accommodations.
For those who have already suffered instances of abuse, the study suggests German authorities provide separate accommodations and do more for victims of religious persecution, noting that the country is a place “where the rights to freely practice one’s religion are constitutionally guaranteed.”