Iran (MNN) — In Europe and in North America, refugees are looking for asylum from religious persecution, but Mike Ansari of Heart4Iran says things aren’t quite as simple as they might seem.
“In 2016, our ministry traveled to Europe with some funding and some resources to help some new refugees that had become Christians, especially Farsi-speaking Iranian and Afghan refugees,” Ansari says.
“In our travels, we realized that a good number of these refugees that had become Christians across Europe, in particular in German churches, were persecuted individuals that had, at some point, become secret believers.”
These persecuted believers have a leg up when it comes to entering other countries as refugees, since their lives could be in danger if they returned. But it turns out that extra concern on the part of foreign authorities can be attractive to people who don’t have quite the same stories.
For those refugees, “There was this amazing opportunity for them to leave their previous life behind and start a new life, and they really did not care if it was political asylum or religious asylum.” That means that though there are plenty of legitimate cases of conversion, there are also plenty of non-legitimate ones
Ansari says the problem comes down to the roles both the Church and government authorities are trying to fill.
“The [European] Church believes that if anybody walks into a church and says ‘Would you please baptize me in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,’ then it is the Church’s responsibility to bring them in [and baptize them],” Ansari says.
Once that initial introduction to Christ has been made, believers hope these new Christians will find a body of believers to plug into, but they don’t necessarily have to ensure the new Christian actually acts like one. On the other hand, the state has to deal with a flood of people claiming asylum because of religious persecution.
“There is no validation, there is no proof of them being under pressure in their own home countries,” Ansari says. “If these are people who are just walking into a church and claiming to be Christians are not absorbed into any church and nothing has changed except they have a baptism certificate, then we have a problem on our hands.”
This tug of war is happening all across Europe as the Church tries to bring in new believers and the state tries to verify persecution, and believers are getting caught in the crossfire.
“Unfortunately, in the midst of all this chaos, you also have a lot of legitimate Christians who have been persecuted in their countries and cannot go back but are now being penalized,” Ansari says.
So how should believers react? Ansari says it’s not up to the Church to decide whether or not a person’s relationship with God is legitimate, but it is our job to pray.
“I think it is our responsibility to continue to pray for them to truly have an encounter with Jesus so that their transformation to be a real, life-changing transformation.”
“Let the politicians handle the politics of it, but let the Church stay strong and pray for God to reveal His glory to all the refugees.”
Pray for wisdom and compassion for authorities, grace and discretion for the Church, and conviction and peace for refugees as the situation unfolds.