Open Season on Christian Asylum-Seekers

The Netherlands is a famously tolerant country, but this easygoing Dutch attitude does not prevail within the culturally enriched portions of the population. Among immigrants, Christianity is especially frowned upon, and the greatest scorn and hatred is reserved for Muslims who have converted to Christianity.

Our Flemish correspondent VH has compiled a report from various Dutch-language sources on the prejudices and dangers faced by Christians within groups of asylum-seekers in the Netherlands.

First, from De Telegraaf:

Christian asylum-seekers threatened by Muslims

In many refugee centers in the Netherlands, Christians are often threatened or assaulted by Muslim inmates. This emerges from the research by the Gave Foundation, the results of which were presented Tuesday on Dutch TV in the program Uitgesproken from the broadcaster EO [Evangelical Broadcaster].

At the initiative of the Christian Union, a majority of Parliament has called to stop the asylum procedures for asylum-seekers who have committed repeated serious threats or physical violence. Parliament also demands that the Immigration and Asylum Minister Gerd Leers [CDA —Christian Democrat] investigate the exact extent of the problem, and set up an independent hotline where asylum-seekers can report anonymously when they are threatened or assaulted by other asylum-seekers.[1]

According the Gave Foundation, a Christian organization that provides assistance to asylum-seekers, 75 percent of Christians in the refugee centers are confronted with discrimination. In 67 percent of the centers (death) threats occur, and in 33 percent there is mention of physical violence. According to employees of the foundation, which examined 28 refugee centers, Muslims are mostly responsible for the violence and threats against the Christian asylum-seekers.[2]

Christian Union MP Joël Voordewind is shocked about such conduct, and speaks of “religious persecution”. The group of former Muslims who converted to Christianity, he said, is especially vulnerable. “It is terrible that people who often have fled because of their faith to the Netherlands, and should be safe here, are being suppressed,” Voordewind said.

Minister Leers said in a response that he takes the message of the report seriously. He wants to read the full study to see whether and what measures are needed.

The ‘Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum-Seekers’ (COA) “absolutely does not” recognize itself in the results of the study. “Safety and livability is the core of our reception work. When this becomes an issue for individual residents, we take appropriate measures. This applies not only to intimidation on religious grounds, but also when it concerns political beliefs, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, or other issues,” the COA said in a written statement.


[1]   At present, witness reports can be passed through to Gave Foundation [service desk].
[2]   Gave Foundation contributed to this broadcast with an email survey [doc] of a total of 24 individuals who had contact with asylum-seekers. These 24 people had contacts in 28 different refugee centers.

1)   Do you know asylum-seekers who as Christians (and/or ex-Muslims) have to deal with discrimination on account of their Christianity in a refugee center?:
Yes 75%
No 25%
2)   Is there also question of death threats?
Yes 67%
No 6%
Unknown 27%
3)   Is there also question of physical violence?
Yes 33%
No 40%
Unknown 27%
4)   What examples have been mentioned of discrimination, threats and/or physical violence?

1.   One of our youngsters from Pakistan felt very threatened. I heard that Muslims who knew him even burnt Christian books outside his door. Of another Afghan youth I know that as much as possible he keeps the fact that he is a Christian secret, out of fear of Muslims. I have also heard that an Afghan woman has problems with her husband because she is a Christian (she no longer lives at AZC [asylum center]).
2.   A Pakistani boy’s books were burned. Many Kurds say: I’d rather not say in the AZC that I am a Christian, because they then won’t be nice to me. I notice that many youngsters also won’t show up (e.g. for a Bible study) when others will also not go, because they are ashamed.
3.   Christians from Eritrea who live next to Somalis in the AZC, were told in the shared kitchen: No Muslim, you eat oink oink meat? The children (6 and 4 years) came home after an afternoon playing with Muslim children. They wished they could become Muslims, “then we won’t be harassed anymore”.
4.   During Ramadan, for Muslims who have recently been baptized and now are Christians, it is impossible not to join Ramadan, if they want to keep it secret that they have become Christians.
5.   On the sly, in small harassments with your bike (empty tires, etc.) or with pebbles against the windows. Or slander among themselves or about/with children. Or by completely ignoring and refusing to help each other (especially among women), etc. In short: the pressure and the feeling of insecurity is big and frightening.
6.   Afghans, before they get in my car (this is a Christian who wants to pick up asylum-seekers for activities), prefer to first walk two streets away and then get in unseen. Especially for Somalis, they are afraid that there are Taliban or Al Qaida amongst them.

VH adds:

For Christian Somalis, also, in the Netherlands the Church must be underground [pdf]. Excerpt:

Islamic militias have beheaded dozens of Christians in recent years, according to U.S. human rights group Christian Concern. “I notice that the handful of Christians from my country therefore are so terribly anxious in the Netherlands about speaking out publicly on their faith in the God of the Bible…. On the question whether [the reporter] may visit the hidden Somali Church [in the Netherlands] Van Dijk [a volunteer for Gave Foundation] says. “Time is far from ripe for openness. Somalis are pretty suspicious… some members of the Community have been beaten, disowned by their families, or even threatened with death.”

From the article “Death Threats for converts in the Netherlands: Muslims who become Christian live in fear”, newspaper Fries Dagblad [June 15, 2010]:

“People think that threats addressed to Muslims who have become Christians only happen in Muslim countries such as Morocco or Iraq,” says Johanna Marten [fake name], team leader of the Arabic work of the Gave Foundation, an interdenominational organization of churches helping to bring the gospel to asylum-seekers. “Many people in the Netherlands have no idea of the problems Muslims encounter in the Netherlands when they become Christian. They do not know that also in the Netherlands concrete threats and assaults happen in the name of Islam.’’

In the Netherlands last year, about two hundred Muslims [asylum-seekers] became Christians. The Frysian Police are not aware of complaints of threats to converted Muslims, spokesman Irene Sloot says. “In such cases it is not reported so quickly.” According to Marten, out of fear ex-Muslims often refrain from this.

The chair of the working group Dutch-Arabic services of the Reformed Church, Eerde de Vries, […] recognizes the tensions ex-Muslims encounter. Twice a year his Morning Star Church organizes an Arabic-language service, to which on average about eighty Arabic speakers join. “The atmosphere seems to become more grim. I sometimes also hear of actual death threats. Lately someone we have contact with was threatened with death in an SMS. Besides this I hear from people who “just” receive punches.”

[…] Islam expert and director of the scientific institute of the Christian Union, Gert-Jan Segers, recognizes the problems. He lived for seven years in Egypt and saw there that it always causes tension when a Muslim becomes a Christian. “In the Islamic world, religious freedom is structurally violated. With the arrival of Muslims in the Netherlands, this culture is imported into the Netherlands.” […] He believes that at this point hard requirements must be demanded on the integration of Muslims. “Because if Islam wants to have a permanent place here, Muslims will have to come to terms with religious freedom. Every Muslim who enters the Netherlands should have it made clear to him that physical violence is not tolerated in this area. It should lead to expulsion, as it fully contradicts to what our country stands for.”

Of course there will be people who have a “hidden agenda”, acknowledges Johanna Marten who is of Iraqi origin. People living in a refugee center who become Christian hoping for a better chance of receiving a residence permit. But for most of the converts this is not the motive, he thinks. Because just as in the countries they come from, becoming a Christian in the Netherlands is not an easy choice for them. Life in a refugee center, or amidst the family who are still Muslims, often becomes a lot harder because of this, as he hears daily. “People almost always have to deal with bullying, sometimes also with serious threats.” [source]

Hat tip: Timo.

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