The plight of converts to Christianity in Muslim countries is well known. What is less known is the plight of Muslim converts to Christianity in Western Europe. Last week Dutch television broadcast a documentary which shows how former Muslims in the Netherlands are frequent victims of intimidation and violence.
A few weeks ago, an immigrant from Iraq was knifed in the Dutch town of Rolde by another immigrant from Iraq. The victim was a former Muslim who had converted to Christianity; the assailant was a Muslim who took offense. Though similar events recently occurred in Rotterdam, Zutphen and Hengelo, the Dutch media prefer not to report them, the documentary said.
A former Muslim, who wished to remain anonymous because of the danger, told Dutch television that after his conversion to Christianity his car had been bashed with iron bars and stones thrown through the windows of his house. In one incident a Turk tried to assassinate his sister who had become a Christian. An asylum seeker from Iraq was told by the police to move to an undisclosed location. A Moroccan girl was also advised by the authorities to relocate.
One Christian convert received a telephone call from the local imam who threatened him with Koran verses calling for the death of apostates. “I am afraid, not just for myself, but also for the lives of my wife and children,” he said. Muslims who become Christians and subsequently try to convert others take serious risks, the police has warned. Nevertheless, many Muslim converts feel it to be their Christian duty to tell their family and friends of Jesus’ love for them.
I recently met a group of former French Muslims who converted to Evangelical Protestantism. They do missionary work in Muslim neighborhoods in both France and Belgium. They told me that there is a “hunger for God” among the Muslims and that the Muslims are the prisoners of Islam and are very receptive to Christianity.
I do not know whether this is true, given the relatively small number of Muslim converts to Christianity, but I could only admire their courage, and wonder why Europe’s Christian churches have never reached out to the many Muslims immigrating into their countries during the past four decades.
American Evangelical churches have begun to financially support converts to Christianity in Western Europe. Pope Benedict XVI also seems to be aware of the unique opportunity to bring people to Christ in Europe.
In March the Pope baptized the 55-year old Magdi Allam, an Egyptian-born Italian journalist and a former Muslim. Mr. Allam moved to Italy in 1972. For almost thirty years he defended Islam and argued in favor of immigration. Since 2002, however, his views have altered radically. Today he advocates a ban on mosques in Italy and states that Islam is inseparable from Islamic extremism.
“I asked myself,” he wrote after his conversion to Catholicism, “how it was possible that those who, like me, sincerely and boldly called for a ‘moderate Islam,’ assuming the responsibility of exposing themselves in the first person in denouncing Islamic extremism and terrorism, ended up being sentenced to death in the name of Islam on the basis of the Koran. I was forced to see that, beyond the contingency of the phenomenon of Islamic extremism and terrorism that has appeared on a global level, the root of evil is inherent in an Islam that is physiologically violent and historically conflictive.”
Mr. Allam also advocates proselytizing among Muslims. He wrote that by personally baptizing him “His Holiness has sent an explicit and revolutionary message to a Church that until now has been too prudent in the conversion of Muslims, abstaining from proselytizing in majority Muslim countries and keeping quiet about the reality of converts in Christian countries. Out of fear. The fear of not being able to protect converts in the face of their being condemned to death for apostasy and fear of reprisals against Christians living in Islamic countries. Well, today Benedict XVI, with his witness, tells us that we must overcome fear and not be afraid to affirm the truth of Jesus even with Muslims.”
While Saudi fanatics have been pouring funds into Salafist missionary activities among European Muslims, it seems that at last Christians have begun to react, preaching a God of Love to people who have only ever heard about a God of Hatred.