Hundreds of asylum seekers from the Middle East, including from Iran and Iraq, have converted to Christianity in Finland, according to officials in the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran community.
A report in Finnish media Yle Uutiset says the conversions are estimated to be several hundred in recent years within the country’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.
The converts are from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and other countries, and the denomination’s parishes have established special confirmation classes for the Muslim immigrants seeking to become Christian.
The report, in Finnish, says that about 20 Afghani men are currently attending “pre-confirmation” classes at the Tainionkoski parish centre in Imatra in Eastern Finland alone. The teachers use a New Testament in the Dari language, which is spoken in Afghanistan.
“I haven’t been baptised yet, but I’m looking forward to it and I’m sure I will be a good Christian,” a convert, Aliraza Hussaini, was quoted as saying.
While some who are seeking to covert cited disillusionment with Islam as the key reason, others said they felt conversion will help them fit into the Finnish culture, according to Sputnik News, which also speculated that an underlying reason also could be to guard themselves against possible deportation.
In Finland, 4.1 million of the 5.5 million people are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
A June 2016 article from The Guardian cited anecdotal data of rising Christian church attendance by Muslims across Europe.
Trinity church in the Berlin suburb of Steglitz, for instance, saw its congregation rise from 150 to 700 due to new Muslim converts, while the Austrian Catholic Church saw its applications for adult baptism swell by nearly 70 percent in the first three months of 2016, the newspaper said.
“I found that the history of Islam was completely different from what we were taught at school. Maybe, I thought, it was a religion that began with violence,” an Iranian convert, 32-year-old Johannes, was quoted as saying. “A religion that began with violence cannot lead people to freedom and love. Jesus Christ said ‘those who use the sword will die by the sword.’ This really changed my mind.”
More churches in Germany reported this growing phenomenon in December 2016, with The Independent noting that Muslims, especially Iranians, are seeing Christianity as a new chance at freedom.
Several Syrian Muslims who fled their war-torn country and found refuge in Lebanon have also converted to Christianity, according to a previous report.
In March, George Saliba, Bishop of Syrian Orthodox Church in Lebanon, said he has baptized around 100 Muslim Syrian refugees since the start of the civil war in Syria in 2011.
The Constitution of Lebanon provides for religious freedom. However, thousands are coming to Christ across the Middle East, Voice Of the Martyrs Canada, which runs radio shows in the region, said in January.
“We are in regular contact with our FM stations in Iraq and have talked with many people who have family in the Middle East. Some of our Middle Eastern broadcasters have shared testimonies [about many turning to Christ] with us, which they hear directly from listeners when visiting there …”
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Source: Christian Post