Fleeing Christians Persecuted in Europe’s Refugee Centers
(L’OBSERVATOIRE DE LA CHRISTIANOPHOBIE) the growing concern of the Catholic and Protestant authorities about the persecution that Christians migrants suffer from Muslim migrants in Germany. Cardinal Rainer Woelki said at an ecumenical meeting in Düsseldorf Saturday 13 February, “The fear increases that politicians and the authorities do not take seriously enough such threats [against Christians in refugee centers]. The persecution of Christians is not a thing of past ages.” He demanded that Germany defend greater religious freedom. For his part, Pastor Gottfried Martens said the “harassment” against the Christian migrants in refugee centers in Germany has increased. He affirmed that Christians were forced to watch beheading videos, were banned from the common kitchen because they were”unclean”, beaten and Christian necklaces torn from their necks. The pastor suggested Christians and Muslims needed to be be housed in separate shelters. “When I talk to politicians, they tell me that the churches do not consider that necessary accommodations are separated and I look ridiculous (…) Our efforts to be tolerant, which is in itself praiseworthy, are not so far allow us to let Christians become a kind of guinea pigs. ” (Source: Catholic Herald , February 19)
Among the thousands of Middle Eastern migrants, Christians who have fled to Europe have discovered that a familiar burden has followed them, religious harassment = PERSECUTION.
World Watch Monitor reports that Christian migrants have been subjected to discrimination, harassment and violence from Muslim migrants with extremist views. One Iranian convert to Christianity was murdered.
The phenomenon has been observed in various locations across Europe, including in the camp of Grande-Synthe in northern France, where Iranian converts have been targeted by migrants from Iraq.
The situation has raised great concerns among local churches, which are now supporting migrants by supplying them with food, clothing, and, in some cases, even shelter.
It all started at the turn of the year, recalls Philippe Dugard, the Pastor of Église Evangélique du Littoral, or EEDL, a church in the neighbouring town of Saint-Pol-sur-Mer, which has spearheaded the relief effort in Grande-Synthe.
“Between November and December, there was a group of Iranians who confessed their belonging to Christ, who started to attend our church. Some were Orthodox, while others said they were Christians but were not truly converted. But we got to know them, and we felt they had a real spiritual thirst,” he said.
“And then one evening [14 December], we were informed that two of them were stabbed and the whereabouts of a third one was unknown.
“We then said that as Christians we cannot leave them alone in that situation, and the victims themselves told us that they no longer wanted to stay in the camp, as they felt threatened.”
The incident marked the beginning of EEDL’s support for migrant victims of persecution.
For the next few days, the victims were put up in hotels, before they were moved to a church in Dunkirk, the closest city to the camp.
Just one of the victims from the initial group remains, a 29-year-old who wished to remain anonymous.
“Generally the Kurdish mafia in the camp are against Christians,” he said. “When we gave our money to them for them to help us to go to England, they didn’t help us and they just stole our money and did not give it back. Then they attacked us and called us kafir [infidels] and dirty. They came and cut me with a knife and they beat my friends.”
He said there are still some Christians in the camp, but that many are too scared to speak about their faith.
“Yes, there are still some Christians there in the camp,” he said, “But they don’t prefer to stay there beside these strong Muslims. They are so racist, they just want to clear the camp to be without Christians.”
He added that a mosque has been created in the camp, and that the Call to Prayer resounds around the camp every day, but unlike the nearby Calais camp, there is no church.
An explosive cocktail
Located in the northwest of France, beside the English Channel, the camp of Grande-Synthe hosts around 2,500 to 3,000 migrants – mostly Kurds from Iraq and Syria, but also some Iranians.
Tensions and other forms of violence are common in the camp, said a social worker, who wished to remain anonymous for fear that the report could impact upon his work with the Christians.
Ethnic differences have created tension in the camp between the Iraqis and Iranians, of whom there are only around 50. The thousands of Iraqi Kurds are mostly Muslim, while some of the Iranian minority are Christians.
Some of them attend local churches secretly, because they are scared of the Muslim migrants and smugglers, who hold sway within the camp. Night raids, theft and violence are among the common threats.
On the night of 14 December, a knife attack left several Christians injured. One of them, a 19-year-old named Mohammad, was murdered. The local police were informed and an investigation is underway. Police did not respond to World Watch Monitor requests for information about the investigation.
A staff member at the Mayor’s office in Grande-Synthe said there is no security problem in the camp, which she said is open to external visitors. However, police now patrol the entrance.
On 26 January, a shooting between rival gangs of smugglers erupted, prompting a huge police deployment around the camp. Security checks are now carried out at the entrance of the camp, and visitors must acquire prior authorisation from the Mayor’s office.
There are some who fear members of the so-called Islamic State may be among the migrants, intent on radicalising other migrants and imposing Sharia inside the camp.
A settled tension
Two months after the attacks against the Iranian migrants, the tension has settled, according to Dugard.
The majority of the victims of the December attacks have moved on. Some managed to reach England, their preferred destination, while others, tired of waiting for a hypothetical crossing or because of a lack of financial resources, returned to Iran. Others have left for other European destinations, with the hope of reaching England another way.
“Sometimes they just won’t show up at dinner time, even though we have already laid the table,” said Dugard. “They are always in search of new routes because the passages via Calais and Dunkirk seem completely blocked.
“But in the meantime, other refugees, including moderate Muslims who heard about the support provided to the Iranians, have now arrived.”
A group of about 10 migrants, only one of whom professes a Christian faith, are currently staying in a church in Dunkirk. A non-religious Iranian in his 30s, who identified himself as Max, complained of the poor conditions and lax security of the camp. A fellow Iranian, a Muslim man in his 20s who identified himself as Farhad, agreed.
“The living conditions in the camp are deplorable,” he said. “It is no place for humans. It is very cold and people fall sick easily.”
Local churches are struggling to cope with the demands being placed upon them, as they seek to support migrants of all faiths and none.
What started as an emergency has become a long-term commitment, Dugard said.
“We are wondering: what is the best option for us? Do we have the spiritual, human and financial resources to continue this work, which is full-time social work?” he said.
“Yet the migrants are really suffering. They crossed a multitude of borders and faced various obstacles to get here, in the hope of a better life. But they realise that it is often hopeless to cross to England and have ended up living in precarious conditions often more difficult than in their countries.”
Those conditions could be improved if migrants exploring Christianity could do so safely, said Michel Varton, director of Open Doors France, part of a worldwide charity that supports Christians who live under threat because of their faith.
“Many Christians amongst the refugees are fleeing persecution and discrimination. They are already traumatised by their terrible experience in the Middle East,” Varton said. “Imagine their despair to realise that, once here in France, they are suffering the same discrimination and hate from fellow immigrants.
“The local churches have shown dedication to help the Christian refugees and those who are genuinely interested in the Christian faith. The authorities must allow them to have simple buildings where they can meet and worship God in security and make sure that values of freedom of belief reign in the camps. It’s totally unacceptable that someone could lose their life for their faith once in France.”
In addition to the lack of resources, there is a logistical problem, as different churches act without much coordination.
Moreover, various groups and associations from all over Europe are also providing assistance to migrants, which has only added to the pressure, said Dugard.
“If some groups are useful, others believe that they can save the world,” he said. “They often come with very aggressive speeches, for two to three days, and then leave. In the end, their actions are doing more harm than good, because after they leave it becomes difficult for us to do serious work.”
Talks are currently underway among churches, as they seek to create a regional platform, which would come underneath the umbrella of the Conseil National des Evangéliques de France, the national Evangelical Church network.
The Grande-Synthe camp stretches over 20 hectares (nearly 50 acres) of marshland. It is difficult to walk through the slippery mud without proper boots.
With thousands of people, including women and children, living in such unsanitary conditions, respiratory problems and infectious diseases are common, says Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), which provides emergency care alongside Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World).
According to MSF, a new camp, equipped with heated tents and located three kilometres from the current camp, will accommodate migrants in the coming days.
However, the migrant crisis remains a very complex issue, says Matthew Bosiger, the pastor of the Salvation Army Church in Dunkirk.
“They are a bit like in a prison,” he said. “It is good to try to improve their situation, but they have no plan to stay in France. The migrants have only one thought in mind: to cross the channel to England, at any cost.”
Many say they have relatives or friends already settled there and the living conditions seem very attractive – partly because many know a little English, but also because of the prospect of better economic opportunities. Smugglers take advantage of migrants’ desperation to reach the UK by charging them everything that they have, with no guarantee they will succeed.
Voice of the Persecuted shared last August how Christian refugees moved from asylum accommodation after threats by Islamists in Sweden. The Christians feared for their safety after it was demanded that they stop wearing Christian symbols, like crosses around their necks. And that they were not welcome in common areas, such as kitchens when the aggressive Muslim group was there.
After receiving no help when the atmosphere became intimidating, the Christian refugees dared not stay and decided it would be safer to find other accommodations.
IS presence frightens Assyrian Christian community receiving threats in Sweden
Representatives of several Assyrian associations attended an emergency meeting as a direct result of several stores in Tynnered being scrawled with threats and messages linked to the terrorist group IS. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the situation in Gothenburg where many Assyrians feel insecure and persecuted.
About 10 thousand Assyrians, a Christian ethnic group originating in the region that is modern Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey – now live in Gothenburg in Sweden. They are extremely worried of the developments they see. They say Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city is one of ISIS recruitment bases and we hear about people who express sympathy for IS in Tynnered. Imagine fleeing persecution in one country and then finding yourself living next door to a IS-sympathizers in what you believed to be a safe haven. Joseph Garis, president of the Assyrian district of Gothenburg, one of the largest community groups for Assyrians in west Sweden says, “It is everyday life for many people”.
In an interview with The Gothenburg Post, Joseph Asmar, the owner of a pizzeria in Tynnered said when he went to open the store on Sunday, he found someone had written the words “Convert or die” with a red pen on the premises, even the Arabic letter nun((ن)=N) had been painted next to the shop door.
The letter nun is the first in the Arabic word nasara used as a word for Christians. In the Iraqi city of Mosul, the letter has been used by the terrorist group to mark the houses of Christian families. The families who received the Islamic glyph for ‘N’ symbol sprayed on their doors were invited to convert to Islam, pay a special tax or die before ISIS took control of the city in 2014. Thousands of Assyrians fled country fearing the jihadists would take their lives. . In Syria and elsewhere in the Arab world, the ن has come to be a sign of persecution, marking inhabitants out as devotees of Nazareth – Jesus Christ – and thus fair targets for persecution.
“It is extremely uncomfortable that this has come to Gothenburg, Sweden. There is no doubt that it is directed at the Christians and Assyrians”, said Yusuf Asmar who runs the pizzeria with his brother.
Right near the pizzeria, an Assyrian cafe owners have received their roll-nerklottrad with IS symbols and messages “caliphate are here.”
– It feels like persecution of Jews in the 30th century when Jews in Germany had Stars of David painted on its doors. Now it happens here, says Yusuf Asmar.
Both Yusuf Asmar and Joseph Gari indicate that Assyrians is a group which is particularly exposed by IS. Last week released the terror group a video which executes three Assyrians by shooting them in the head.
– In the 80’s was the Nazis who created concern among Assyrian and other immigrant groups. Now it IS plus it’s on a whole different level. Politicians and police need to wake up now. It is not enough to speak of IS and various investigations. Concrete action is needed now, says Josef Garis.
According to the police has been established in the police force graffiti at Opaltorget. Possible offenses are vandalism and assault. But according to Inspector Bertil Claesson, the crimes are difficult to investigate.
– No witnesses or forensic evidence that can be traced, it is almost impossible to investigate such cases. The only possibility is if someone has seen something and we get tips from the public, says Bertil Claesson.
He points out that police in the West Region to launch a special hate group after the end of the year which will only work with similar cases. But until they are treated as ordinary cases.
Pizzeria owner Yusuf Asmar adds however, greater responsibility on the politicians.
– It feels like the IS-followers can come and go in Sweden as they please. At the same time, we Assyrians feel unsafe. Politicians must take it seriously, says Yusuf Asmar.
Sweden: Christian refugees moved from asylum accommodation after threats by Islamists
Iranian Christian Woman Deported From Sweden Tells Her Story
Swedish authorities seem to be indifferent to the desperate situation of Iranian refugees who have escaped severe Human Rights violations in Iran. Deporting them would put them at a great risk of being arrested, imprisoned, and tortured or in some cases even executed. Mrs. Shahrzad Sakiani, an Iranian Christian convert, is one of the asylum seekers at risk of being deported to Iran.
Mohabat News – Shahrzad Sakiani was a Christian asylum seeker in Sweden. Stockholm immigration police arrested her last June and eventually deported her to Oslo, Norway with an accompanying officer. In just 24 hours, despite all efforts by Human Rights activists, Norwegian immigration police forced her to board a Qatar airways flight to Tehran via Doha. Two female officers and one Iranian-Norwegian officer were commissioned to hand her over to Iranian authorities.
The officers forced Shahrzad to get on the plane in Oslo airport, despite her resistance. Norwegian officers took her to the plane so aggressively that her shirt was torn and by the time she was on the plane, her upper body was naked, she had a headache and her nose was bleeding. This violent interaction had caused her to lose control of her bladder and make nervous screams. The two female officers held her arms and put their hand over her mouth. The Iranian-Norwegian male officer, who had introduced himself as Farhad, kept kicking her knee and forced her to take a seat at the tail section of the plane. Farhad held her tightly on her seat and pushed her head between her knees so she wouldn’t scream.
Read more: Iranian Christian Woman on the Verge of Immediate Deportation
Shahrzad told Mohabat News that she was so scared that she could hardly control my screams. After a few hours in transit at Doha, she was put aboard a flight to Tehran. The Qatar Airways flight landed in Tehran early in the morning. The officers used a blanket as Hijab to cover Shahrzad and took her with them to one of the halls at Imam Khomeini airport.
There, Norwegian officers tried handing Shahrzad over to Iranian authorities along with her deportation letter. Iranian police refused to receive her as Shahrzad did not confirm her identity. The Iranian-Norwegian officer, Farhad, did all he could to convince Iranians to accept Shahrzad. He even threatened Shahrzad that if she didn’t cooperate, he would inform Iranian authorities about everything she had told them in confidence in her refugee interview concerning the Islamic regime of Iran.
Shahrzad told Mohabat News, “The disrespectful treatment by the Norwegian officer, Farhad, had allowed Iranian authorities to disrespect me as well. When one of the bearded Iranian guards saw the cross around my neck, he snatched it from me and threw it away. This was done so violently that the mark it left on my neck remained for a couple of days”.
Ultimately Iranian authorities refused to accept her in Tehran without identification. She was returned to Oslo with the officers. The Iranian-Norwegian officer told Shahrzad that he would do everything to collect the required documents from the Iranian embassy in Oslo and return her to Tehran.
Shahrzad was shocked by Farhad’s threats and escaped the detention room that night. She is currently living in an undisclosed location and spoke to Mohabat News from there. She asks Human Rights organizations to condemn this inhumane treatment by Norwegian Immigration police. She also pleads with all her Christian brothers and sisters in Iran and around the world to support her and her husband in prayer.
Shahrzad Sakiani and her husband, Mahmoud Mohammadi, have had their asylum application rejected in Norway twice. When they tried to apply in Sweden, they refused to grant them asylum seeker status and deported them to Norway.
Shared with permission
Our friends at Mohabat News are a group of Bible believing Christians who believe in propagating the word of God. They have made the spreading of the good news of God’s love and forgiveness among Iranians and the Farsi speaking peoples of Afghanistan and Tajikistan their primary goal.
The Lord has placed on their hearts to bring awareness of what is happening in the world to Farsi-speaking readers. Helping Christian and non-Christian Iranians raise their awareness of what goes in our world and in their own country.
Mohabat News acts as a cultural and social bridge between the world community and the peoples of Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan and to better inform the worldwide Church of Jesus Christ and Christian ministries around the world about the life and the welfare of Christian minorities in these Farsi-speaking countries.
Please visit Mohabat News, the voice of the persecuted church of Iran to stay informed. English or Farsi
Sweden: Christian refugees moved from asylum accommodation after threats by Islamists
Christian refugees now facing persecution in unlikely places.
Östra Småland reported that a group of Christians asylum seekers have been forced to move from asylum accommodations in Kalmar County after being harassed and threatened by fundamentalist Muslim residents.
The Christians feared for their safety after it was demanded that they stop wearing Christian symbols, like crosses around their necks. And that they were not welcome in common areas, such as kitchens when the aggressive Muslim group was there.
After receiving no help when the atmosphere became intimidating, the Christian refugees dared not stay and decided it would be safer to find other accommodations.
Michael Lönnegren, a deputy director of the Migration Board’s premises in Kalmar County confirmed that the group of Christians asylum seekers felt compelled to move due to conflicts with Muslim residents. He said, “It is of course totally unacceptable that something like this happened.” He added that the Migration Board was seriously looking into the matter and would try to ensure that something similar would not happen again.
Lönnegren emphasized that it was not the Swedish Migration Board who decided to move the Christian group. That it was a decision they made themselves, and they had also arranged for new accommodation on their own.
There is no division in the ethnicity or religion of the Migration Board’s reception centers. People from different sides in a conflict may thus end up in the same accommodation.
Lönnegren said they assume that those fleeing to obtain a haven in Sweden will also abide by the country’s laws when they get there. That based on the shortages of places for asylum seekers, it would be impossible to make a distinction based on their religious beliefs. He assured that events such as the this does not happen often, but when it does—it’s taken very seriously by the Migration Board.
Similar incidents have been reported previously from the Swedish asylum accommodation. In Germany and Denmark, however, the discussion has been more lively. In Germany, it has been required that special asylum accommodation be set up for Christians.
Last year 81,301 persons applied for asylum in Sweden. A large majority came from Muslim countries. 30,000 came from Syria, 11,000 from Eritrea, 5000 from Somalia and 3,000 from Afghanistan, 8,000 were stateless, mostly Palestinians.
More than two out of three asylum seekers were men. 54 000 men applied for asylum, but only 26 000 women.
Christian asylum seekers in Sweden come mainly from Syria and Iraq.
UPDATE: Nurse Fired for Refusing to Participate in Abortions Files Lawsuit Against the Swedish Government
Ellinor Grimmark who was not only fired from her position as a midwife for asking not to have to perform abortions because of her belief that human life begins from conception, but who was offered her position back under the condition that she agree to psychological counseling to coerce her into accepting abortion as a “right.”
Alliance Defending Freedom has assisted Mrs. Grimmark’s legal team in Sweden in defending her right of conscience in one of the very few nations in Europe without explicit protection in such employment settings. As Mrs. Grimmark has noted, she became a midwife because she loves children; she wants to bring them into the world rather than prevent them from entering the world. source
“In my contact with my employer or a prospective employer, I have talked very carefully about my inability to perform abortions based on my Christian faith, my sincere religious conviction.
Jönköping County Council’s decisions constitute an interference with the exercise of Mrs. Ellinor Grimmarks right to freedom of conscience and religion under the European Convention on Human Rights, says Ruth Nordstrom, Legal Counsel and President of Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers. – The County Council has supported the withdrawals of offered job positions as a midwife at three different hospitals, and set up an obligation to perform abortions as a condition for employment as a midwife. This is a requirement that puts persons of a certain religion or other beliefs in a discriminatory position. Read Full Article Here
Woman in Sweden Denied Work as Midwife for Refusing to Perform Abortions
A Christian woman in Sweden has been unable to find work as a midwife since a hospital where she interned last year let her go for refusing to help perform abortions.
Hospital officials in the southern town of Eksjö had promised to extend Ellinor Grimmark’s contract until she refused to participate in abortions last summer, she said. Another hospital agreed to hire Grimmark but then reneged due to her convictions and the controversy growing over them, and no other hospital would hire her in spite of a shortage of midwives in Sweden, she said.
“They have said that because I do not perform abortions, I cannot work as midwife,” Grimmark told Morning Star News, referring to both the hospital that let her go and prospective employers. “In my contact with my employer or a prospective employer, I have talked very carefully about my inability to perform abortions based on my Christian faith, my sincere religious conviction. My employer has not been willing to discuss the issue further.”
Grimmark, a 37-year-old wife and mother who has since found work as a nurse, has filed a complaint with Sweden’s Discrimination Ombudsman (DO). Attorneys with human rights group Provita and religious liberty organization Alliance Defending Freedom are helping Grimmark in a case they hope will help establish protections for freedom of conscience in Sweden.
Grimmark, of Tenhult, said she had prepared for work as a midwife with the understanding that the primary responsibility would be to help deliver babies, though she was aware that hospital work in Sweden could conflict with her convictions.
“I knew it could be a problem, but I was hoping for a supportive employer that would be willing to help me and grant me the right to freedom of conscience,” she told Morning Star News. “But unfortunately, I have encountered a very negative attitude and a direct unwillingness to resolve my case. They answered me that, ‘Someone with your opinions has no place at our clinic.’”
Sweden has no comprehensive and clear legal and policy framework regarding freedom of conscience, said Provita CEO Ruth Nordström. She noted, however, that the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR, formally European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms), offers protections and that they are legally binding in Sweden.
“Ellinor Grimmark is denied the right to exercise the most basic manifestation of Article 9 of the ECHR,” Nordström told Morning Star News. “Her employer has not complied with either the Swedish Discrimination Act’s prohibition against direct or indirect discrimination, or the requirement of a general obligation to cooperate with the employee ‘to achieve equal rights and opportunities in working life regardless of religious belief, and in particular to combat employment discrimination on such grounds.’”
A 2010 resolution should greatly affect how the European Court of Human Rights interprets the ECHR articles, she said.
“European case law protects religious manifestation and maintains a right to freedom of conscience, which is strengthened by the Council of Europe resolution 1763 of conscience for health care workers and the protection of freedom of conscience in health care among member states in Europe,” Nordström said.
The case has sparked debate in Sweden, where a woman may obtain an abortion for free at up to 18 weeks after conception, and in some cases 22 weeks. Asserting that legal protections of freedom of conscience would result in violations of the right to an abortion in Sweden, many fear women seeking abortions would run into a shortage of those willing to perform them.
Among those voices is that of the Swedish Association of Health Professionals, whose vice chairwoman, Pia Arndorff, told TT news agency, “As a patient in Sweden, it must be very clear what you can expect according to Swedish law. It should not depend on whom you happen to encounter.”
Sweden and Finland are said to be the only two members of the 47 Council of Europe states without well-defined freedom of conscience measures.
“In the majority of Council of Europe member states, the freedom of conscience is well regulated in national legislation,” Nordström said. “In some countries, the right to freedom of conscience is implemented in the constitution.”
Resolution 1763, which the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly adopted on Oct. 7, 2010, implies the right to conscientious objection in lawful medical care, she said. It stipulates that “No person, hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion, the performance of a human miscarriage, or euthanasia or any act which could cause the death of a human fetus or embryo, for any reason.”
Sweden has been accused of non-compliance of several counts related to freedom of conscience before the European Council of Social Rights. In March 2013 the Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe filed a complaint with the Council delineating the counts, and attorneys hope Grimmark’s case could also help bring Sweden into compliance with Council of Europe standards.
Provita’s Nordström, who also serves as president of Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers, said Grimmark could win a case in the European Court of Human Rights.
Grimmark said she felt hospitals in Sweden spurned her for her Christian convictions.
“I believe that life starts at conception,” she said. “I do not believe that a man may decide over life and death. I believe there is a plan for every person’s life even before birth.”