Thousands of Christians in German refugee shelters are being persecuted by Muslims, sometimes even by their security guards, according to a new report, which asserts that in most cases German authorities have done nothing to protect the victims.
The study alleges that German authorities and police have deliberately downplayed and even covered up the "taboo issue" of Muslim attacks on Christian refugees, apparently to avoid fueling anti-immigration sentiments.
The report, "Religiously Motivated Attacks on Christian Refugees in Germany" (Religiös motivierte Übergriffe gegen christliche Flüchtlinge in Deutschland), was produced by the German branch of Open Doors, a non-governmental organization supporting persecuted Christians, worldwide.
The study — which confirms a Gatestone Institute analysis about Muslim-Christian violence in German refugee shelters — documents more than 300 incidents in which Christian refugees in Germany have been physically and sexually assaulted, and even threatened with death, because of their faith.
The report is based on the interviews of 231 Christian refugees conducted between February and April 2016. More than 80% of those interviewed were male and more than half were younger than 30. Most of those questioned came from Iran, Afghanistan and Syria. Nine out of ten of those participating in the survey were Christians with a Muslim background. Of these, the majority had already converted to Christianity in their home countries.
Of those interviewed, 86 said they had been physically assaulted at the hands of Muslim refugees and shelter security staff, many of whom are also Muslim. More than 70 said they had received death threats, 92 had been insulted for their Christian faith and 62 had been subjected to "very loud religious music or prayer," presumably of the Islamic variety. Others said they had been subjected to physical attacks in the form of punches, spitting, pushing and sexual abuse. Around 75% of those interviewed said that harassment from Muslims is a "frequent" problem.
According to Open Doors, the report "only shows the tip of the iceberg" because "many Christian refugees are frightened of facing more difficulties if they report incidents." Others fear that "the information could get into the wrong hands and cause danger for relatives still living in their home countries." The report states:
"A major obstacle to the survey was that many victims were afraid to participate. They feared negative consequences in the event that their personal information were to fall into the wrong hands. Their concern was not only on the possible consequences for them personally and for their families in Germany, but also for their relatives who continue to live in the countries of origin.
"Another major obstacle was that many women are reluctant to report sexual assaults because of feelings of shame which are often more pronounced among Middle Eastern women than those in the West.
"To make matters worse, many refugees have had negative experiences with the authorities and police in their countries of origin because of their Christian faith. They are used to being treated as second-class citizens. Now they see that things are no different in many refugee shelters in Germany — a country with freedom of religion — and they not even once received help.
The report includes testimonies from Christian refugees who describe a "constant climate of fear and panic" in German shelters:
"I came to Germany after fleeing my own country in the hope my life would be safer in the face of growing dangers. But in Germany I've been threatened more."
"At this point I must say that I really did not know that by coming Germany, and only because of my faith, that I would be harassed here as much as in Iran."
"The Muslims paint crosses and underline them with an X to insult us. They throw their garbage in front of our door. They listen to the adhan (Muslim call to prayer) and the reading of the Koran at high volume. We had to abandon our last refugee shelter because of death threats."
"In our refugee shelter, the security guards do not enforce the rules. Every morning at 5AM we are woken up to the sound of the adhan. The situation is getting worse. When you complain, they say this is the Muslims' right. Also, they insult us with impunity. In our shelter, two of my friends have received death threats. Muslims tore a cross chain from his neck. None of us dares to wear a cross anymore."
"When we collect our welfare stipend, we are pushed to the end of the line. Also in the kitchen, we are the last to eat. After midnight, when we are asleep, they knock on the window and we can no longer go back to sleep because of fear. And the next day during language classes we cannot learn well. Muslims call us mortad (apostates) and steal from the kitchen. They have stolen so much of our food that every room now has a refrigerator."
"I was insulted and physically assaulted by Muslims in our shelter several times. Every time the police had to intervene. The memory of these incidents still weighs on me and I have serious psychological problems, I even attempted to commit suicide. Security guards have insulted our religion and attacked us. I testified as a witness to police. After receiving death threats, we went to police with our pastor and filed a complaint."
The report includes an account from Gottfried Martens, a pastor in Berlin, who describes incidents of Muslim harassment that occurred in early May — incidents which the police have still not bothered to investigate:
"A Christian couple from Iran was increasingly being bullied by the Afghan leader of an asylum shelter in Berlin. As 'infidels' they were not given a bed and were forced to sleep on the floor for months. It finally got to the point that the Afghan devastated their sleeping area and personally destroyed their Christian objects (Easter candle, Bible, parish newsletter).
"Another Christian was harassed by Muslim refugees who chanted the Koran around the clock because of his conversion. Yesterday evening, he tried to kill himself with a razor blade. Fortunately, he was rescued in time.
"Two weeks ago we had to accommodate eight refugees from another shelter. They were threatened with death because they refused to participate in the Muslim ritual prayer in the gymnasium. When the security guards were called for help, they joined together in prayer with those who had threatened the Christians. When the Christians fled the hall as the Muslims were shouting 'Allahu Akbar' [Allah is Greatest], the Muslim security guards banned them from the shelter on the grounds that the Christians had attacked the Muslims."
According to Open Doors:
"It is alarming that Christian refugees and other religious minorities increasingly are facing the same persecution and discrimination as in their Muslim countries of origin, and not even in Germany can they get the expected protection.
"Despite increased reports about this problem by the media, charities, human rights organizations, church leaders and Christian organizations, German authorities and politicians have hardly ever launched an investigation. Instead, we believe that incidents are deliberately downplayed and even covered up. During confidential discussions with researchers from Open Doors, it has become known that even in police stations, religiously motivated attacks on Christian refugees are not documented as such."
"As a result, many cases of sectarian violence are not statistically recognized and are not classified correctly in terms of their severity and frequency. This means that a large number of religious-related human rights violations against Christians and other religious minorities are treated as irrelevant.
The report concludes with a number of recommendations for the German government to help ease the burden on Christian refugees:
- The religious affiliation all migrants should be recorded at the very beginning of the process of registering refugees and that data should be forwarded throughout the process of assigning refugees to accommodations.
- Religious minorities should be pooled so that the percentage of Christians and other religious minorities in relation to Muslims in refugee shelters is approximately equal.
- Christians and other religious minorities who are victims of persecution and discrimination should be separately accommodated.
- The non-Muslim component within the ranks of the security personnel should be increased.
- Employees and the security staff in refugee shelters should receive regular sensitivity training regarding the causes of religious conflict and the protection of religious minorities.
- Persecuted Christians should be provided with a list of the names of other Christians to whom they can call upon for help.
Some institutions close to the German government openly dispute Open Doors's assertions and have provided political cover for the authorities to do nothing to help persecuted Christians.
In March 2016, the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), a center-right think tank that is independent of, but closely tied to Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, published an analysis entitled, "Christians under Pressure?" (Christen unter Druck?). The report argues that Muslim persecution of Christians in Germany and elsewhere in the world is being exaggerated and in any case cannot be proven:
"In the world context, as in Germany, reliable information on attacks against Christians is difficult to obtain. Reports are mostly subjective and empirically not seriously provable...
"There are probably a number of different reasons for the violence in the refugee shelters: A large number of people are living together for a long time in a confined space without privacy and in stressed conditions. Psychology may also be a contributing factor: worries about the future, language and cultural barriers and the processing of recent memories of flight from their home country. As if this were not already stressful enough, there are situations in which persecutors and persecuted in their countries of origin meet up again at refugee shelters in Germany.
"In addition to sectarian clashes, ethnically motivated conflict situations, for example, repeated clashes between Afghans and Iraqis. Striking is also the large numbers of conflicts involving converted Christian refugees. Only very little is known about hostility against Arab Christians who were already Christians in their country of origin."
The KAS report advises against separating refugees according to their religious affiliation because it would "send the wrong signal" to newcomers regarding Germany's commitment to religious liberty: "In Germany there are no cultural or religious exceptions to our understanding of civil liberties... Germany guarantees the freedom of religion... In Germany there is no reason for a person to feel they need to conceal their religious affiliation or that they are not able to convert to another religion."
The KAS report does not offer any recommendations for eradicating the sectarian violence in German refugee shelters.
At a press conference marking the release of the Open Doors report, Volker Baumann, director of a group called Action for Persecuted Christians and the Needy (AVC), said that up 40,000 refugees in German shelters are being persecuted due to their religious beliefs.
According to Gottfried Martens, the pastor from Berlin, the German government has lost control over the situation. In an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, he said that most Christians who are being persecuted in German shelters dare not file a formal complaint due to fears for their own safety. In those cases where complaints are filed, Muslims file counter-complaints. Moreover, it is hardly ever possible irrefutably to prove incidents of harassment. Thus the vast majority of refugees decide not to complain in order not to aggravate their situation.
Thomas Müller, an analyst with Open Doors Deutschland, concluded:
"Christian refugees from many different countries are trying and failing to find safety in Europe and it is likely that the report only shows the tip of the iceberg. It is clear that many Christian refugees — especially those who are converts to the Christian faith — live in fear of persecution from Muslim refugees who make up the majority of residents in the refugee hostels set up throughout Europe. It is sobering to hear persecuted Christians telling a Western country that they recognize the very same persecution patterns in operation as in their home countries."
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter. His first book, Global Fire, will be out in 2016.