„Their cross is Christianity”

„Their cross is Christianity”

Study on the framework of criminal law in relation to atrocities against Christian asylum seekers in Germany

Hanga Sántha – Dániel Horváth

Published in: Hautzinger, Zoltán (ed.): A migráció bűnügyi hatásai, Magyar Rendészettudományi Társaság – Migrációs Tagozat, Budapest, 2016, ISBN: 978-615-80567-0-0, pp.27-43


Recently several European countries, host countries by tradition, experienced a rather forgotten side-effect of the large-scale influx of migrants, namely various forms of reliously biased abuse against Christian asylum seekers by fellow Muslim asylum seekers. This study illustrates the unfortunate situation of the former group, which is seemingly just as unprotected against religious intolerance in Europe – the continent aiming to fulfill a significant role as the stronghold of human rights – as they were in their country of origin. The almost constant lack of criminal sanctions and other potential consequences for the religiously biased acts may in essence contribute to the forthgoing of the very same culture of impunity as in several of the countries of origin, where the abuse and discrimination of Christian minorities and persons converting from Islam to Christianity (converts) is not considered a crime, but rather a religious imperative.

Several European institutions and international organizations consider 2015 to be the worst year for the persecution of Christians in modern history.[1] The 2015 report of the American-based Pew Research Center states that in 102 of the 198 countries included in the study the followers of Christianity suffered persecution or different forms of discrimination by governments or groups within society based on their religion.[2] According to Open Doors, an international organization serving persecuted Christians worldwide, 35 out of the 50 countries most severely oppressing Christians have a Muslim majority.[3]

Also in 2015, the largest international population movement since World War II reached Europe as a large-scale irregular flow of migrants: the number of first time asylum applicants rose to 1,255,685, which is more than double the 2014 amount.[4] Most asylum seekers were oriented towards Western Europe, primarily towards Germany and Sweden, known for their generous immigration policies.[5] Notwithstanding their several decades of experience with immigration, the high number of asylum seekers posed unparalleled challenges to both the German and the Swedish asylum systems.

European immigration experience shows that the religious and ethnic conflicts occurring primarily in the Middle-East (and often being the root causes to waves of migration from the region) are likely to persist in the European host societies; [6] signs of this have been tangible in numerous reception facilities already upon arrival. Several German civil society organizations have reported on religiously biased harassment, discrimination and abuse against Christian asylum seekers by not only the Muslim asylum seekers in these accommodations, but also by the predominantly Muslim staff of the security companies commissioned to guarantee safety and order in the reception facilities.[7] These incidents, occurring on a regular basis, are a sign not only to Germany, but to Europe as a whole, posing the question to the continent and its countries established on a Christian value-based system whether they can provide sufficient protection to the most vulnerable group of asylum seekers, namely the Christian minorities among refugees fleeing from extreme religious intolerance? Another important question to be answered is how this target group can enjoy the same protection of minorities as other European citizens, especially considering its character of a fundamental European value?

Germany in light of the 2015 influx of migrants


About 35 percent of the asylum applications in the European Union in 2015 were received in Germany, most applicants coming from Syria, Albania and Kosovo. Altogether, close to 477,000 people applied for asylum, 93 percent of them for the first time.[8] However, the real number of irregular migrants arriving to the country was presumably much higher. According to data from the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, a total of 1,100,000 migrants were registered last year, who were evenly proportioned among the federal states for more effective processing of the applications.[9] The German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees records show that 61,061 people, about 13,8 percent of people registered last year, professed to be Christians.[10] This number should, however, be handled with reservations, as the statement of religious affiliation is still voluntary at registration.

The federal right-wing coalition, dominated by the Christian Democrats (CDU) – nominating the Chancellor – has been divided on how to handle the situation from the very beginning of the migrant crisis. The Bavarian Christian Socialist coalition partner (CSU) – taking the nexus between migration and security as evidential already at the initial stage, urged a break-away from the „Wilkommenskultur” policy, and proposed a more strict, quota-based migration policy. In practice, lengthy negotiations on the coalition level had to precede the steps eventually taken by the Federal Government to adopt stricter asylum[11] and integration rules, aiming the sustainable management of the migration situation. In this regard, the new integration law effective of July 1st 2016 may be considered as a slight shift from the focus of former German immigration policy. While former policies and measures focused on the economic, socio-political and cultural integration of new residents,[12] the present law makes clear the bilateral nature of integration, highlighting also the duties and obligations of the immigrants towards the host society, e.g. by actively participating in the integration process.

Certain elements of the new law were met with harsh criticism, especially from civil society organizations. In their view, the new regulations, especially the low-wage jobs (the so-called „one-Euro jobs”), and the linking of social benefits to obligatory residence decided by regional governments, as well as conditioning permanent residence permit to certain criteria (e.g. German language skills, ability to secure the own living), are all obstacles to the very aim of promoting social cohesion.[13]

Data available on the education skills and other competences of asylum seekers is also important to bear in mind, especially as the latest reforms aim to facilitate the integration of a group, of which – as of 2015 – about 73 percent[14] claimed to follow the religious ordinances of Islam (rather than state law, which is considered secondary), the vast majority (98,2 percent) did not speak German,[15] and of which only about 18 percent of the men and 16 percent[16] of the women had higher education. Another impediment to the actual start of the integration process are the lengthy asylum procedures, as the average time of an asylum procedure rose to 6 months from 4.8 months in 2015, notwithstanding that it also takes months to even submit an asylum application.[17]

The sociological background of conflicts imported with migration

International migration towards the industrialized world has several root causes and motivational factors. People leaving their homeland because of war or for social, political or economic reasons can become constructive parts of their host societies, or – depending on the state of the host community as well – catalysts of security, social, religious, demographic, health, cultural or economic issues.[18] From a sociological point of view, several factors may influence the likelihood of desintegration, e.g. the potentially low or unsecure social status of the immigrant group in their country of origin, general poverty within this group, the group’s view and conduct of religion, culture, values or customs potentially deviating from that of the host society, their attitude towards violence (and the hierarchy-creating power of violence) deviating from that of mainstream society, or different demographic aspects governing the family structure.[19]

Despite the fact that ethnic or religious conflicts stemming from the country of origin, imported to and sustained in the destination country, may also hinder cohesion, relatively little attention has been paid to analyzing conflicts among various migrant groups in the field of migration and conflict research. With the lack of appropriate integrational initiatives and consequent law enforcement measures the conflicts leading to migration may very well continue in the diaspora, as indicated by the Kurdish-Turkish[20], and Serbian-Albanian conflicts in Western Europe.[21] The same conclusion can be drawn from the anti-semitic acts committed by certain members of the Western-European Muslim communities.[22] The current political issues or the re-escalation of conflicts in the countries of origin may have an impact on the co-existence in the host society as well, and can prompt reactions occasionally leading even to violence among the immigrants, especially if the specific groups have a strong original identity.[23] Research suggests that in the case of ethnic and religious conflicts in the countries of origin, members of the diaspora are more likely to have strong reactions and harbor grievances and revenge on a long run than people remaining in the countries of origin.[24] This intra-group intolerance may be passed on to second and third generations.[25] In this regard, sociological research have shed light on three factors that may enhance the possibility of the (violent) conflicts’ ripple effect: (1) due to the host country’s (generous) immigration policies radical individuals may arrive to the communities already settled; (2) the activity of radical groups are already present in the established communities; (3) the aforementioned communities’ have connections with foreign radicals.[26]

Religious justification of atrocities against converts 

Various sources claim that Christian convert asylum seekers are especially vulnerable to religiously motivated abuse in Germany.[27] In certain countries with Muslim majority violence against converts is prevalent from both the state and mainstream society, hence, Muslim asylum seekers originating from these countries may maintain a hostile approach to converts, just as they may remain prone to use violence prompted by religious intolerance.[28] In the case of Germany, Christian converts have been abused by not only Muslim asylum seekers placed at the same reception facilities, but often also by the Arab-speaking Muslim staff of these facilities, as well as by the interpreters.[29]

Leaving Islam (conversion from Islam) is still one of the most sensitive issues within Islamic law.[30] Islamic law defines conversion as apostasy (ridda in Arabic, which means rejection), which – according to certain strict interpretations of the Islamic law – calls for sterns punishment, as conversion is considered not only as an insult to the religion, but also as a direct endangerment of the society living according the laws of Islam (shari’a).[31] As conversion in the view of certain Islamic scholars represents a crime against God, the country ruled by the laws of Islam must execute severe punishment for it (Virgili, 2015:4). Hadith number 6868 from the Al-Bukhari collection serves as the legal and religious ground for (death) penalty: „The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: […] the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.” In its original context, the primary meaning of apostasy was a return to idolatry, but this could be extended to the conversion to a Jewish or Christian religion, which are considered to be antecedents of Islam.[32] In the interpretation of jihadist organizations, the notion pf apostasy embraces a much wider category: it includes the Shi’ites, who – in their view – contest the perfection of the Qur’an with their religious practice, further all those who accept, advance or use a secular – in most cases, a Western – order of law.[33]

In 2013, the Pew Research Center conducted a public opinion survey in ten countries with a Muslim majority, through which the importance of adjusting the laws of the land to the Qur’an in the view of the population was investigated. Among the countries included in the study Afghanistan and Pakistan showed a significantly high percentage of the population (99 and 84 percent) being of the view that the laws governing the country should strictly follow the teachings of the Qur’an. Among the Muslims of the view that shari’a should be the law of the land a high percentage favored death penalty for converts.[34] These are remarkable facts also in the light of the present wave of migration into Europe, considering the 2015-2016 asylum statistics revealing that Afghan and Pakistani citizens form the third and fourth largest group of asylum seekers.[35] Further, Afghanistan and Pakistan are, along with North Korea, Iraq, Eritrea and Syria, right on the top of the list of countries with extreme persecution of Christians, according to the World Watch List by Open Doors.[36]

 The legal regulation in relation to offenses against Christian asylum seekers in Germany and its shortcomings

Politically motivated crime in the German penal code

The highest level, though abstract, of legal protection against the type of offenses investigated in this study is set forth in article 4 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (Grundgezetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland), ascertaining the freedom of practicing a religion as an inviolable right. This is closely related to the inviolability of human dignity, to be protected by all state authorities, as laid out in articles 1 and 2. This duty implies that the state must intervene with the instruments of the law if man’s dignity would be violated by other persons.[37]

The „politically motivated crime” (politisch motivierte Kriminalität, PMK, in German), which is closest to cover the religiously motivated atrocities against Christian asylum-seekers, does not appear as an autonomous crime in the sectorial substantive law, it only exists in the categorization system used by the police in criminal statistics. The concept includes crimes committed against „the democratic order, or the stability and security of the state”, along with crimes motivated by the victim’s membership of a social group (hate crime).[38] The racist or xenophobic motivation of the offense may be aggravating circumstances when sentencing,[39] however, this type of motivation is difficult to prove in practice.

The number of politically motivated crimes in 2015 was 19, 2 percent more than that of the previous year. The rise was most abrupt (34, 9 percent rise in comparison with 2014) in extreme right-wing motivated crimes,[40] including crimes of xenophobia (e.g. attacks on reception facilities, which doubled in comparison with last year[41]). One ninth of hate crimes in the politically motivated category were religion-based,[42] but the official statistics do not reveal which religious affiliation may have motivated the crimes. The report sent by German civil society organizations to the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) gives some hint on the proportion of crimes committed against people of a Christian religion: in 2014, the German authorities registered 449 crimes that were „bias against Christians and members of other religions”.[43] This report includes only one specific case of atrocities against Christian asylum seekers (Syrian Christians),[44] but this is not likely to represent the whole spectrum, as the civil society organizations keep account of many more cases than the authorities acted upon. OSCE notes that the German police could not prove religious prejudice or intolerance as motivation in any of these cases.[45]

Religious bias is the core factor that is hard to prove in crimes of religious intolerance. Neither the suspect, nor the aggrieved is obliged to disclose his/her religious affiliation; nor is the suspect obliged to declare his/her motives; and in many cases the religious component of the offense may only appear indirectly, through other crimes (e.g. sexual harassment of female Christian asylum seekers by male Muslim asylum seekers)[46] In case the religious motivation of the crime cannot be proved, and should the offense not appear in the official crime statistics as a crime caused by religious prejudice or intolerance, the danger of not recognizing the problem fully remains. However – as will be discussed in the chapters below –, flaws in the statistics may also appear due to other factors, such as the reluctance of the victim to report the case, as well as the conduct of case documentation and categorization by the German police.[47] The shortcomings of the statistics with the real numbers remaining unknown hinder the accurate assessment of the scale of the problem, which leads to the underestimation of its impact on social cohesion and integration, as well as of its political importance.

Finally, it is worth noting that the general crime statistics of 2015 reported a significant rise in the number of crimes committed by „foreigners” (i.e. not German citizens, Ausländer), especially in alien policing matters (such as illegal border crossing and overstay).[48] In connection with alien policing matters, Syrian citizens formed a majority among foreigner suspects with a 14,7 percentage.[49] In the „immigrant” category (which includes refugees and asylum seekers, Zuwanderer), Syrian citizens committed the highest number of crimes (excluding the alien policing matters), bodily harm constituting the most frequently committed crime.[50] The statistics do not reveal the ratio of asylum seekers among the victims, since the assaulted category does not have a separate „immigrant” grouping, despite the clear provision that a police report does not affect the processing of the assaulted person’s asylum application.[51]

Documenting the crimes 

The documentation of the aforementioned, religiously biased offenses constitutes a complex issue, aggravated by difficulties of definition and qualification.

As the German Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA) indicates,[52] the German law enforcement authorities consider religiously motivated crimes as clear cases of politically motivated crimes. Their data collection is limited to conventional personal data types (e.g. name, citizenship, gender, age), they do not record particular data such as ethnicity or religious affiliation. In accordance with the recommendations of certain civil society organizations, the BKA would find the establishment of a separate database for religiously biased crime worth considering, however, they also stress that the database of politically motivated crimes was already modified in 2001 with the spread of extremist and other non-classifiable offenses. In their view, the greatest obstacle to maintaining a database of authentic information in relation to the religiously biased conflicts is the difficulty of proving the motivation. This is also the case with other religiously biased crimes, such as honor crimes, where the frame and content of the notion may not be entirely clear, either. German criminal practice is therefore case-based, hence, the scale of the problem can only be demonstrated if there is a prpoerly documented case (based on a de facto accusation), which could then form the basis of a targeted prevention strategy at a later stage. Preventing these conflicts is an urgent matter, requiring a firm prevention and integration policy, based on the very practical experiences as well in line with the legitimate expectations of the religious minorities not to be harassed purely because of their faith.

The low numbers revealed by official statistics inevitably leads to the underestimation of the gravity of the phenomenon. This is partly true on the part of German Evangelical and Catholic Churches as well.[53] From the aspect of disclosing the problem on a larger scale, it is regrettable that even Amnesty International remains silent about the situation of Christian asylum seekers in its comprehensive study on atrocities against asylum seekers in Germany published in 2016.[54]

In the light of the mentioned hindering factors several German civil society organizations[55] decided to join an initiative to map out and fully disclose the problem. These organizations have taken major steps to call the attention of the public and of the decision makers to the fact that Christian, Yazidi and other minority asylum-seekers live with almost constant fear in reception facilities generally dominated by Muslim asylum-seekers. In May 2016 the organizations presented their fact-finding report based on a survey conducted among Christian and converting asylum seekers placed in German reception facilities on their experiences with religiously motivated atrocities committed against them.[56] The aim of the survey conducted with the voluntary participation of 231 asylum-seekers was to explore the experiences of harassment, abuse, and atrocities of discriminative nature, along with the frequency of these crimes. The respondents were from Muslim majority countries (Iran, Afghanistan and Syria), 82 percent of them were male, 50 percent of them were younger than 30, and 86 percent of them were converts (two thirds of them from Iran).[57] A significant proportion of the respondents claimed to have experienced religiously motivated abuse from other asylum-seekers (88 percent) or from the staff of the reception facility (49 percent).[58] Respondents in the reception facilities of Berlin had experienced abuse in even greater proportions (92 and 69 percent).[59] In the experience of two thirds of the respondents harassment is a regularly occurring problem. Apart from insults and harassment (42 percent), respondents must most often endure physical abuse (36 percent) and death threats (32 percent).[60]

The assessment of atrocities against Christian asylum seekers 

The assessment of atrocities against Christian asylum-seekers and converts and the discourse on possible preventative measures show a great division even among members of the German civil society, partly depending on the professional background of the persons dealing with the issue.

In a report published in March 2016, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation puts the atrocities in a strongly relativistic light, claiming that the religious motivation of documented atrocities „cannot be proved authentically”,[61] since the reports on religiously biased abuse, harassment and discrimination are „subjective, and cannot be empirically supported”.[62] Instead, the report claims that the root cause to the phenomenon is an interplay between several factors, such as several months of being very close to one another, perceived or real lack of private space, uncertainty about the future, and resultant frustration.[63] It also mentions that little is known about atrocities against Christians from Arab countries and labels the news on (documented) anti-Christian behavior demonstrated by certain members of the reception facility security staff with a Muslim background as „over-simplified”.[64] The report takes an official stand against separating asylum-seekers along lines of religion, claiming that this could not be a solution in the long run, as the separation would convey an undesirable message, namely that every individual’s right to freedom of religion is not fully prevalent in Germany.[65] The Foundation proposes a federal level database on (religiously motivated) atrocities against places of worship, similar to the existing one on attacks on Jewish sacral buildings, and it urges the facilitation of civil society dialogue on religious tolerance.[66]

According to the migration and asylum coordinator of the Foundation’s center in Berlin,[67] the German society is on the right track; the whole community feels a great responsibility for those in need, and – according to the Foundation’s representative – this approach is not abandoned for security policy considerations, either. In the coordinator’s view, not even the recent terrorist acts can confirm the nexus between migration and terrorism, neither do they prove that receiving a large number of asylum-seekers brings increased security risks. It is the aim of the Foundation to avoid even the appearance of any kind of discrimination, also in this regard. As to the question of separating Christian and Muslim asylum seekers, the coordinator underlines that very extreme cases would have to happen in order for this issue to become a real concern for political leaders. Consequently, the coordinator considers the reception facility in Berlin, operated by (extremist) Muslim leadership, and the events occurring there (as referenced in the May 2016 report by Open Doors Germany[68]) as rare exceptions. However, the coordinator does not dispute that in employing security guards, much more emphasis should be placed on qualification and skills, rather than purely on the language (Arabic language knowledge), and adds that in her view, the low salary of these jobs may also be a source of tension.

When examining the practical side of the issue, the work of pastor Gottfried Martens must be mentioned,[69] who as an Evangelic pastor of the Berlin church district in the Berlin Steglitz quarter helps the conversion to Christianity of about 40-50 Muslim asylum-seekers – mainly of Iranian and Afghan origin – each month. According to Pastor Martens about half of the persons from Iran already had contact with the Christian faith in their home countries, although the intensity of this contact diverges from person to person. Most of the converts claim not to have decided to convert to the Christian faith for expected gain (e.g. better acceptance, easier integration), although the prevalence of such motives cannot be completely excluded.[70] In his personal experience, the majority wishes to get to know the religion itself better, in which striving they usually succeed. Some of the Afghan Christians would already have practiced their religion in the country of origin, would they have had the possibility. In many cases, their conversion took place during the several years of stay in Greece.  According to Gottfried Martens, the German political leadership has not yet recognized the problem posed by the Muslim (in many cases, radicalized) security staff at the reception facilities, despite heavy criticism from the above mentioned civil society organizations.

The police, on the other hand, is already aware of the phenomenon. In his view, mentioning atrocities against Christians committed by Muslims still constitutes a taboo in the German society, which alone constitutes a severe obstacle in finding the right and solutions to these problems. Several reception facilities are governed by the Christian church, whose leadership – in the pastor’s opinion – is interested in suppressing the problems. The leadership is also aware of non-radical Muslims among the facilities’ security staff, who know about „physical or spiritual atrocities and threats” against Christian asylum seekers, but who – out of fear – do not take any specific steps to reveal the problems (nor to solve them), and who ask for anonymity. According to the pastor’s experience, there is also a great amount of skepticism among the victims regarding the practical usefulness and meaningfulness of reporting the crime to law enforcement, because even if a case reaches the stage when the police file a criminal complaint, experience shows that the accused can muster several witnesses to support his view of the incident. As a consequence of the failing criminal charges, there is no precedent for a sentence of such offenses either, and in addition the victim may experience further atrocities as acts of revenge for having reported to the police. According to Pastor Martens, most aggressors are Sunni Muslims, the majority of Afghan (Pashtu), Pakistani or Syrian origin. In his opinion, there is no political will to separate the Christians and the Muslims within the reception facilities. In the view of the pastor „Germany should continue its open border policy only if it is ready for an open dialog on the existing problems”.

The AVC (Action for Persecuted Christians) Germany, a civil society organization dealing with human rights protection in relation to persecuted Christians and others in need, came to similar conclusions as the one just mentioned. The representative of the organization claimed that communication about the immigration policy of Christian Churches in Germany was deliberately controlled, not only by the Federal Government, but also by the governing bodies of provinces and cities, limiting negative communication focusing on prevalent problems.[71] According to the representative of AVC Germany the typical reaction to the issue forehand is that „the problem is being dealt with”. In his opinion, the Christian Churches are outdated in their present form; their inability for renewal has been demonstrated through their incapacity during the migrant crisis, and in the way they relativize and neglect the current threat against Christianity worldwide. Christian and Muslim asylum seekers cannot and should not be in the same reception facilities in the long run, rather they should be separated.

In October 2016 AVC Germany – together with Open Doors Deutschland and other organizations – presented its last report on atrocities against Christian asylum-seekers in Germany, which included religiously motivated attacks on 743 Christian asylum-seekers in German refugee shelters.[72] The survey indicates that violent assault was named most often (56 percent), followed by death threats directed at the Christian asylum-seekers in Germany and/or at their families.[73] The survey also confirmed the previously mentioned issue of lacking legal consequences, as only in 17 percent of the cases (the rarest ones) had there been a complaint to the police, but the majority of the victims refraining out of fear for further attacks.[74]

In the view of a well-renowned German sociology professor emeritus[75] atrocities against Christian asylum-seekers in Germany are mainly committed by Sunni Muslims. In his arguing, the reason for this lies in the fundamentalist Sunni education and interpretation of Islam, which considers conversion to another faith a crime against God. Hence, the division within Islam also becomes tangible when assessing conversion to Christianity. Another aggravating factor is that Muslim organizations in Germany – which are rather divided and at the same time solely representing one-fifth of the local Muslim communities – do not assume responsibility through acting against the religiously biased extremist acts.[76] Confirming what the above mentioned expert reports stated, the sociologist also believes that the „never again” approach – developed in the aftermath of World War II – is so deeply entrenched in German society that it even overrides the necessary security considerations. It is both regrettable, yet typical, that the idea of a „self-organizing society” still is widely accepted, which has led to the unhindered development of parallel societies; the gradual and voluntary separation of certain districts with immigrant (e.g. Turkish, Romanian, Bulgarian) majorities, leading to serious consequences in relation to the lacking presence of certain authorities in these areas.


In general, the chance for a peaceful coexistence within society heavily depends on the attitude and the behavior of groups of people toward one another. The criminal code also partly serves this purpose, as it sanctions harmful behavior disrupting the peaceful coexistence. The law-makers set forth the conditions of culpability regarding certain behaviors, but the effective execution of the sanctions for such behaviors depends on several other actors. However, not even criminal law – and the faith in its omnipotence – can at all times secure the basic requirements for a peaceful coexistence between different ethnic and religious communities. What may serve as a facilitating factor is a clear integration policy adopted right from the beginning, putting proper emphasis on prevention, and making the rights and duties of all members of society evident regardless of cultural or religious background.

Germany’s collective identity as a host country for immigrants is still a sensitive issue within the German society and the large-scale influx of migrants has, among others, shed light on the consequences of a missing clear definition of which shared values are to be respected by all members of society. There is a risk that acts of religious prejudice and intolerance committed by some of the asylum seekers, the lack of firm condemnation of such behaviors, as well as a failing confrontation with legal consequences will aggravate integration and hinder social cohesion. If the given host society is not aware of its own identity, its basic values, and what it expects of immigrants with the intent of permanent residence, the challenges springing from this basic issue will pose an obstacle in solving the imported conflicts between Christian and Muslim asylum-seekers in a satisfactory manner.

In conclusion, a significant number of the Christian asylum seekers in Germany have suffered from religiously biased abuse, the very same kind they once fled from in the first place. This is true for both those who lived as members of a Christian minority in their homeland as well as for those who converted to the Christian faith there, or those who decided to convert in Germany. Asylum-seekers converting from Islam to Christianity are among the most vulnerable, as they have committed what in the light of certain strict Islamic religious interpretations is considered as one of the most serious „crimes against God”, justifying members of the Muslim community to execute severe retorsion.

At the time of the conduct of this study it was apparent that only civil society organizations and certain members of the Church clergy where addressing this issue in the German society, and the cases known have not fully convinced political decision-making levels to take firm action. The lack of problem recognition is due to gaps in the statistics on the one hand, and to a lack of political will on the other. Revealing the gravity of the problem also runs into difficulties posed by a lack of willingness on the part of the abused to press charges, and by the case-based documentation of German police authorities. Without good practice and proper awareness, the police authorities would most probably not experience the same difficulties in deciding whether the crime aforehand had a religious bias. According to the German Churches mentioned above, part of the public views the problem of attacks on Christian asylum seekers as a part of the propaganda against Islam and Muslim asylum-seekers,[77] and as such, they consider it incompatible with the principle of a political approach free from all forms of discrimination.

However, even civil society is seemingly divided regarding the possible solutions. Some argue for the separation of asylum seekers along religious lines , while others invoke the freedom of religion and claim that a separation would carry a negative message both from a political, as well as from an integrational point of view. Neither do the Evangelic and the Catholic Churches officially support separation. In their opinion, the solution lies in raising the quality of reception facilities, and in measures that increase the „religious sensitivity” of their staff.[78] Meanwhile, the atrocities continue, press coverage on the offenses is selective and often inconsistent, and the public seems to have an attitude of indifference to this problem, indicating that this issue has not yet reached the threshold necessary to act at the different levels of society. At the same time it has to be noted that this is a major challenge that – with regard to the continuing migration towards Europe – may occur in any of the Union’s member states, and that calls for urgent settlement not only for the sustainability of national integration policies in a broader sense, but also for the future of the people of the European continent once established on Christian values.

[1] Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians (OIDAC): Report 2015 – Special Focus on Christians in Europe. Access: http://www.intoleranceagainstchristians.eu/publications/report-2015.html (Downloaded: July 3, 2016), p 5.

[2] Pew Research Center: Latest Trend sin Religious Restrictions and Hostilities, 2015. Source: http://www.pewforum.org/2015/02/26/religious-hostilities/ (Downloaded: July 18, 2016). Report data from 2013.

[3] Open Doors: World Watchlist 2016. Source: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/wwl-downloads/. (Downloaded: July 7, 2016), p 1.

[4] Eurostat: Asylum statistics. Source: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Asylum_statistics (Downloaded: July 30, 2016), p 1.

[5] Ibid, p 1.

[6] Thomas Volk (2016): Christen unter Druck? Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Ausgabe 202. Source: http://www.kas.de/wf/de/33.44564/. (Downloaded: July 6, 2016), p 9.

[7] Open Doors Deutschland: Religiös motiviert Übergriffe gegen christliche Flüchtlinge in Deutschland. Source: https://www.opendoors.de/downloads/Berichte/Open_Doors_Bericht_Religioes_motivierte_Uebergriffe_gegen_christliche_Fluechlinge_in_Deutschland.pdf. (Downloaded: July 10, 2016.), p 5.

[8] Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, BAMF (2016): Das Bundesamt in Zahlen 215 – Asyl. Source: https://www.bamf.de/SharedDocs/Anlagen/DE/Publikationen/Broschueren/bundesamt-in-zahlen-2015-asyl.pdf?__blob=publicationFile (Downloaded: July 1, 2016), p 7.

[9] Press release from the Federal Ministry of the Interior. Source: http://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/DE/2016/01/asylantraege-dezember-2015.html (Downloaded: August 2, 2016.)

[10] Ibid, P 22.

[11] Kalkmann, Michael: Wichtige Neuerungen durch das Asylverfahrensbeschleunigungsgesetz. Asylmagazin. 2015/11. Source: http://www.asylumineurope.org/sites/default/files/resources/am2015_11_beitrag_asylverfbg.pdf  (Downloaded: August 1, 2016, pp 365-366.

[12] Yasar Aydin: The Germany-Turkey Migration Corridor: Refitting Policies for a Transnational Age. 2016, Migration Policy Institute. Source: http://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/germany-turkey-migration-corridor-refitting-policies-transnational-age (Downloaded: August 16, 2016), p 13.

[13] Ben Knight: Merkel presents new refugee integration law as ‘milestone’. Source: http://www.dw.com/en/merkel-presents-new-refugee-integration-law-as-milestone/a-19281722 (Downloaded: August 3, 2016.)

[14] BAMF, 2016, p 22.

[15] Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, BAMF Kurzanalyse: Asylerstantragsteller in Deutschland im Jahr 2015. Sozialstruktur, Qualifikationsniveau und Berufstätigkeit. 03/2016. Edited by Anna-Katharina Rich. 2016. Accessed: http://www.bamf.de/SharedDocs/Anlagen/DE/Publikationen/Kurzanalysen/kurzanalyse3_sozial-komponenten.pdf?__blob=publicationFile (Downloaded: August 2, 2016), p 9.

[16] Ibid, p 6.

[17] Die Zeit Online: Immer mehr Asylbewerber klagen gegen das Flüchtlingsamt. Source: http://www.zeit.de/politik/deutschland/2016-06/asylverfahren-asylbewerber-bundesamt-fluechtlinge-klagen (Downloaded: August 17, 2016.)

[18] Póczik, Szilveszter: Nemzetközi migráció – biztonságpolitikai, rendészeti aspektusok, biztonság, Accessed: http://www.ittvagyunk.eu/application/essay/120_1.pdf. (Downloaded: July 2, 2016), p 36.

[19] Ibid, p 36.

Hanrath, Jan: Transnationale Migrantengruppen und der Transport von Konflikten. Universität Duisburg-Essen, INEF-Report 105/2012, 2012. Source: http://inef.uni-due.de/cms/files/report105.pdf. (Downloaded: August 4, 2016), p 9.

[20] The Washington Post: The Kurdish-Turkish Conflict is playing out in Germany. Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/04/01/the-kurdish-turkish-conflict-is-playing-out-in-germany/. (Downloaded: August 4, 2016.)

[21] Hanrath, 2012: p 8.

[22] Perry, Barbara (ed) et al.: Hate Crimes, Vol. 1-5, 2009, Praeger Publishers, Westport. ISBN: 978-0-275-99569-0. p 138.

[23] Pupcenoks, Juris: Western Muslims and Conflicts Abroad. 2016, Routledge, New York. ISBN: 978-1-138-91552-7. p 46.

[24] Ibid, p 45.

[25] Baser, Bahar: Diasporas and Imported Conflicts: Turkish and Kurdish Second-Generation Diasporas in Sweden, 2013, Journal of Conflict Transformation and Security, University of Warwick, Vol. 3, Nr. 2, p 118.

[26] Pupcenoks, 2016: p 46.

[27] Open Doors Deutschland, 2016: pp 9-10., Volk, 2016: p 9, OIDAC, 2016: p 10.

[28] German Bishops’ Conference statement, July 12, 2016. Deutsche Bischofskonferenz, 2016. Source: https://www.ekd.de/download/Gemeinsame_Stellungnahme_Christen_in_Asylbewerberunteruenften.pdf, p 3.

[29] Ibid, p 3.

[30] Vergili, Tommasso: Apostasy from Islam under Sharia law. 2015, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Pisa, ISSN: 1974-5656. Source: http://www.stals.sssup.it/files/Apostasy%20in%20sharia%20law,%20STALS,%20def.pdf, (Downloaded: August 1, 2016), p 4.

[31] Munif, Abdul-Fattah: Betérés és áttérés az iszlám jogban, In: Déri, Balázs et al: Conversio. A Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem Bölcsészettudományi Karán 2011. szeptember 22-23-án tartott vallástudományi konferencia előadásai. Source: http://vallastudomany.elte.hu/sites/default/files/u5/525-528-Abdul-Fattah%20Munif.pdf. (Downloaded: July 30, 2016), p 527.

[32] Munif, 2011: p 527.

[33] Speidl, Bianka: Az Iszlám Állam ideológiája, In: Besenyő, János et al: Az Iszlám Állam – Terrorizmus 2.0., 2016, Honvéd Vezérkar Tudományos Kutatóhely, Kossuth Kiadó,  p 130.

[34] Pew Research Center (2013): The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society. Source: http://www.pewforum.org/2013/04/30/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-beliefs-about-sharia/#_ftnref6. (Downloaded: July 5, 2016), p 55.

[35] Eurostat, 2016: p 1.

[36] Open Doors, 2016: p 1.

[37] Klicsu László: Az ember méltósága a német alkotmánybíróság egyes döntéseiben. Iustum Aequum Salutare, VI. 2010/4. Source: http://ias.jak.ppke.hu/hir/ias/20104sz/11.pdf. (Downloaded: August 17, 2016.) p 128.

[38] Bundesministerium des Innern: Politisch motivierte Kriminalität. Source: http://www.bmi.bund.de/DE/Themen/Sicherheit/Kriminalitaetsbekaempfung/Politisch-motivierte-Kriminalitaet/politisch-motivierte-kriminalitaet_node.html (Downloaded: August 2, 2016.)

[39] German Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch), 46:2.

[40] Bundesministerium des Innern: Polizeiliche Statistik und Fallzahlen Politisch Motivierte Kriminalität 2015 vorgestellt. Source: http://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/DE/2016/05/pks-und-pmk-2015.html (Downloaded: August 2, 2016.)

[41] In 2015, a total of 1031 atrocities against reception facilities were registered by the German policy, in comparison with 198 such reported crimes in 2014. Source: Bundesministerium des Innern: PMK-Straftaten gegen Asylunterkünfte 2015. Source: http://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/Nachrichten/Pressemitteilungen/2016/05/pmk-2015-straftaten-gegen-asylunterkuenfte.pdf;jsessionid=3EEE6327323E3FA020CAAB336A1D20DB.2_cid287?__blob=publicationFile (Downloaded: August 2, 2016.)

[42] Bundesministerium des Innern: PMK-Straftaten im Bereich Hasskriminalität 2014 und 2015. Source: http://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/Nachrichten/Pressemitteilungen/2016/05/pmk-2015-hasskriminalitaet.pdf;jsessionid=3EEE6327323E3FA020CAAB336A1D20DB.2_cid287?__blob=publicationFile (Downloaded: August 2, 2016.)

[43] OSCE ODIHR: Hate Crime Reporting – Germany. Source: http://hatecrime.osce.org/germany (Downloaded: July 2, 2016.)

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Open Doors Deutschland, 2016: p 7.

[47] Ibid, p 6.

[48] Bundesministerium des Innern: Polizeiliche Kriminalstatistik 2015. Source: http://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/Broschueren/2016/pks-2015.pdf;jsessionid=3EEE6327323E3FA020CAAB336A1D20DB.2_cid287?__blob=publicationFile. (Downloaded: August 4, 2016.)

[49] Ibid, p 54.

[50] Ibid, p 71.

[51] Ibid, p 64.

[52] Source: Interview with staff members of the Federal Criminal Police Office’s Team of Research on Terrorism and Extremism, Wiesbaden, July 28, 2016.

[53] Deutsche Bischofskonferenz, 2016: p 2.

[54] Amnesty International (2016): Living in insecurity – How Germany fails victims of racist crime.

[55] Open Doors Deutschland, the Central Council of Oriental Christians in Germany (ZODC), International Society for Human Rights (ISHR/IGFM)

[56] Open Doors Deutschland (2016): Religiös motivierte Übergriffe gegen christlichen Flüchtlinge in Deutschland.

[57] Ibid, p 11.

[58] Ibid, p 12.

[59] Ibid, p 12.

[60] Ibid, p 12.

[61] Volk, 2016: p 1.

[62] Ibid, p 9.

[63] Ibid, p 9.

[64] Ibid, p 9.

[65] Ibid, p 11.

[66] Ibid, p 12.

[67] Source: Personal interview conducted at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Berlin, July 27, 2016. The names have been left out on purpose with respect to privacy.

[68] See Open Doors Deutschland, 2016.

[69] Source: Interview with Dr. Gottfried Martens Evangelic Pastor, Berlin Chruch District, Berlin-Steglitz, July 26, 2016.

[70] The lack of violence in the Christian faith was a reoccuring theme in interviews conducted by the authors, where the asylum seekers participating in a preparation course to coversion to the Christian faith said that as opposed to Islam, it „does not proclaim violence” (Emir, 40, citizen of Iran; Basil, 34 years old, citizen of Iran).

[71] Source: Personal interview with a representative of AVC Germany, Wiesbaden, July 28, 2016. The names have been left out on purpose with respect to privacy.

[72] Open Doors Deutschland (2016): Lack of protection for religious minorities in Germany. Source: https://www.opendoors.de/downloads/Berichte/Open_Doors_survey_Lack_of_protection_for_religious_minorities_in_Germany_2016_10.pdf (Downloaded: 15th of october, 2016).

[73] Ibid, p. 25.

[74] Ibid, p. 27.

[75] Source: Personal interview, Bonn, July 29, 2016. The name has been left out on purpose with respect to privacy.

[77] Ibid, p 2.

[78] Deutsche Bischofskonferenz, 2016: p 5.