[Iranian asylum-seeker Aref Movasaq Rodsari stands in the Trinity Church in Berlin, Germany, Aug. 13, 2015. (AP/Gero Breloer)]
Berlin: A group of Iranian and Afghan asylum seekers, who claimed to be Muslims, were on Sunday baptized at the Trinity Church in Berlin after they reportedly converted to Christianity.
Among those converted to Christianity include Ali Zonoobi, a carpenter from the Iranian city of Shiraz, who arrived in Germany with his wife and two children five months ago.
Zonoobi and others say true belief prompted their embrace of Christianity. But there’s no overlooking the fact that the decision will also greatly boost their chances of winning asylum by allowing them to claim they would face persecution if sent home, according to Associated Press.
Zonoobi, who now calls him Martens, recognizes that some convert in order to improve their chances of staying in Germany — but for the pastor motivation is unimportant.
Many, he said, are so taken by the Christian message that it changes their lives. And he estimates that only about 10 percent of converts do not return to church after christening.
“I know there are — again and again — people coming here because they have some kind of hope regarding their asylum,” Martens said. “I am inviting them to join us because I know that whoever comes here will not be left unchanged.”
Martens, who dressed all in white for his baptism on Sunday, said he had attended secret religious services in Iran ever since friends introduced him to the Bible at age 18. He decided to flee to Germany after several Christian friends were arrested for practicing their religion.
For Zonoobi and his wife Afsaneh — who since her baptism goes by the name of Katarina — the christening marks a new beginning.
“Now we are free and can be ourselves,” she said. “Most important, I am so happy that our children will have a good future here and can get a good education in Germany.”