Special Focus on Refugees: Migrants in Europe

Responding to the faith journeys of Afghan migrants is challenging.

Click to view full map. Credit: Creative Commons

This article has been reproduced from the EMC 2017 Annual Report. The full report can be found here.

by Arley Loewen

About 1.5 million refugees flooded into Europe in 2015. The 2nd highest number of refugees were from Afghanistan. Many Afghan migrants are becoming “Christians,” often with little understanding of Christian faith. When asked why or how they came to faith, they answer:

  • It’s a free religion (a lot say something like this).
  • Islam has so many restrictions.
  • I compared Mohammad to Jesus.
  • I see the kindness of Christians.
  • Christianity is democratic.

Need for teaching

In winter 2017 several Pamir Production teams held Afghan gatherings in 15 different cities in Germany and Switzerland. We also spent time with individuals and families in counselling, encouragement and teaching. In short:

  • German churches are baptizing “converts” and issuing certificates too easily and soon. The German court system is aware of this and apparently is insisting that if Muslims “convert” they must indeed experience the Christian faith! It is ironic that the government is insisting that believers be true disciples!
  • Often a magical communication occurs when Afghans meet real Afghan Christians and hear and see that their own people love the Messiah as Afghans.
  • There is a tremendous need for “in language and in culture” resources and teaching.
  • There are huge needs to help with husband-wife relationships. The restrictive honour-shame cultures no longer help to sustain marriage relationships.
  • When Afghans attend church, other Muslims in the refugee camps frequently harass them. The German police do little to stop this out of fear they will be accused of being considered antiimmigrant and Nazi.

A Nicodemus among the sheikhs?

About 30 devout Muslims joined the Afghan conference for seekers and believers, including an Afghan sheikh who had studied Islamic theology and is well-known among the Shiite community.

After several Afghans gave their testimony of becoming followers of Christ, this man began to explain Islam. Some believers objected and began to harass him. Tension built up, as the two sides polarized. Some of the young Christians felt now was their chance to “get back” at Muslims who have harassed and persecuted them. Voices got louder, as each group insulted the other. It could have easily erupted into something ugly.

The Pamir team took hold of the situation: “We are not here to debate, insult others or put them down. We need to listen to what the sheikh says and learn to respect others’ views. Let him finish his speech. As followers of Jesus, we don’t preach against other religions, but our call is to preach the good news of Jesus and share how God has worked in our lives.”

At the end of the conference some of the Muslim and Christian Afghans embraced each other—something we have never, ever witnessed before.

The next day the sheikh came privately to talk with us. After a lunch together, we went for a walk and had a deep and gracious discussion. At the end he said, “It makes me wonder why my friends’ behaviour changes for the good after they become Christian.”

This sheikh is reading the Word and wants to remain in touch with us.

Pamir Productions is partnering with European ministries to provide healthy discipleship for these Afghan migrants. See http://www.pamirmedia.org and http://www.hope4afghans.com.

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