(Translated from Kurier)
A black sunglasses covered his eyes, he wants his name not reveal fearing for his family. “You can call me Christoph call, that’s my Christian name.”Christoph is an elderly refugee from Afghanistan, since 2012 he has lived in Austria. End of the year it will be a Catholic, baptized in a Vienna church: “This could be my death sentence.”
In recent months, the number of Muslim refugees who want to convert, increased massively throughout Austria. Five to ten questions listed alone the Archdiocese of Vienna weekly. 2016 making Muslims roughly half of 83 approved adult baptismal candidates in Vienna, estimates Friederike Dostal of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference. 2015 was one-third. The majority comes from Iran, Afghanistan and Syria. The time of preparation for baptism is one year – The movement of refugees in recent months will therefore make really noticeable until 2017th.
Fear and threats
But to meet people like Christopher, is difficult. The Catholic Church is very concerned about the safety of the candidates for baptism, for repeatedly being told of threats in Austria. And many are worried about their family members who are still in the home countries. Almost two months pass until there is a catechumen who is willing to speak to a journalist.
Now Christoph sits in a small meeting room of the archdiocese, behind St. Stephen. Around his neck he wears a beige cross hanging on a leather thong, before him is a green Bible. Beside him sits Markus, his ecclesiastical Taufbegleiter.
In fluent English told the dark-haired Afghan of his faith and the flight to Austria. “A friend brought me from Pakistan with the Bible. I read it in secret, and only at home. But I read it every day.”
On paper, there is in Afghanistan since 2004 religious freedom. But there are reports of Christians who are imprisoned, convicted or lynched. “Whoever converts, is killed,” says Christoph.
Torture of Taliban
One day the Taliban were knocking on his door, arrested him, tortured him.He managed to escape, came painfully back to his village. But the family was away. Two years passed before he heard from them again. They had fled in time. Your current location will not see published Christoph security reasons.
He even made it undetected to Kabul, from there to Turkey and to Vienna.Here he was treated first of all because of his injuries in hospital. The first months lived Christoph in Traiskirchen. “Why exactly Austria? Oh, this decision of the tractor for me has taken.” Today he has a temporary residence permit, since he was only recognized as eligible for subsidiary protection. This protection gives people whose lives are threatened in the country of origin, but not sufficient for indefinite asylum. He lives alone and receives a guaranteed minimum income.
As a youth he felt the Christianity belonging says Christoph. “Although I was a Muslim, but did not feel connected. Even at school I began to look for alternatives. Christianity for me is the religion of humanity. Jesus I admire his life and suffering.”
Photo: / Leila Al-Serori
Amelioration of asylum opportunities?
Only in Austria feels Christoph confident enough to go the way of baptism – a lengthy. At least one year takes preparation time, which the Episcopal Conference 2014 so decided. A precaution to prevent “Taufscheinchristen”.So refugees who hope to gain better opportunities asylum. Because according to the Austrian legal situation has to be considered a conversion in the asylum procedure, if the change of religion persecution in the home country entails. Automatic asylum does not mean this: Each case would be examined individually, so the Ministry of Interior.
There were repeated last media reports of mass baptisms free churches in Germany. Of this, the Catholic Church dissociates in Austria: All catechumens are months supervised individually.
Even Christoph stresses on demand that his change of religion was not for his residence permit. For one year he is preparing for baptism together with companion Markus, read the Bible and go to church. “So we can see if someone is really Christian,” explains Markus. These standards would be upheld by the Asylum Court, the conversion as a reason for asylum would so readily accepted, Cardinal Schönborn said in March .
Danger for converts
His family respected Christopher plans. he could bring to Austria they have not. he has found in other Christian refugees forever. From the Afghan community he stays away, too big is the fear of attack.
“In Austria, it was once very safe for converts, that has changed due to the strong migration movement. In the refugee quarters can also be dangerous, which deters many from” explains Friederike Dostal.
Christoph knows that his decision is not without danger, but he met her.”Christianity is the true religion,” he says. The Afghan itself adjusts his sunglasses, she finally takes off completely.
“There is no turning back for me.”