ICC Note: Christians in Iran face escalating persecution for converting from Islam. Women like Afsaneh who have converted have received lashings and even jail time for their faith. Seeking refuge in Germany, nearly 4,500 have left Iran and migrated to Europe. As crackdowns in Iran worsen, churches in Berlin and throughout Germany can come to expect a growing population of Christians seeking refuge.
By Benjamin Weinthal
05/18/2014 Iran (Fox News) – Iranian-born Muslims who converted to Christianity are breathing new spiritual life into communities across Germany, where they are fleeing to in increasing numbers to escape persecution back home.
Men and women, who have been sentenced to the lash or worse for apostasy – converting from Islam – are forming a thriving community of Christian ex-pats in German cities and towns. The Iranian immigrants seek asylum, or simply pay up to $30,000 to enter the country illegally with a fake passport, a new name and plans to start their lives over in new churches.
“Nothing illustrates the contrast between the Muslim world and the West than Christians fleeing Iranian persecution.”
– Richard Landes, Center of Millennial Studies at Boston University.
“The growing number of Iranian Christians fleeing their homeland to come to Germany should alarm us that Iran’s regime is getting more and more radicalized and repressive – on a daily basis,” Saba Farzan, a German-Iranian expert on human rights, told FoxNews.com.
A telling example of Iran’s heavy-handed crackdown on Christians is the case of a 40-something Iranian woman named Afsaneh. A spiritual display brought down the full force of Tehran’s hard-line regime.
“I was so excited about Christmas that I put up a tree in my home and work,” Afsaneh told The Guardian.
However, she along with her cousin would pay a steep price for their embrace of the Christian faith in the Sharia-dominated Islamic Republic. Iranian authorities imprisoned both converts and imposed more than 70 lashes on Afsaneh and her cousin for merely practicing Christianity.
After securing refuge in Germany, Afsaneh said she resents her homeland’s lack of freedom.
“I want Iran to have respect for my perspective, about what religion I choose,” she said. “Not just to tell me that I have to be a Muslim.”
The number of Iranian Christians fleeing to Germany has grown to nearly 4,500 in 2012 from less than 1,000 four years earlier, according to The Guardian. Although Germany is not the only destination for Iranian Christians fleeing from persecution, its strong economy make it more desirable than other choices, such as The Netherlands, Sweden and Austria.