Churches in Germany have removed the symbols of Christianity in their places of worship so as to avoid offending Muslim refugees. In the city of Oberhausen, the evangelical Königshardt-Schmachtendorf church is being used to shelter Iraqi and Syrian Muslim refugees. The altar, pulpit, baptismal font and pews have been removed in order to accommodate the foreigners. The goal was to not only provide additional space for the Muslim refugees within the worship space, but to also avoid giving them offense.
In the Königshardt-Schmachtendorf church, improvised kitchens and dormitories are being built, while clothes washing facilities are also being planned. Pastor Joachim Deterding informed local civil authorities of the developments.
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has called upon fellow Catholics in Austria to use their churches as temporary shelters for the migrants, most of whom are coming from countries other than conflictive Iraq and Syria.
Germany has seen an indeterminate number of Muslim converts to Christianity. Pastors point out that converts to Christianity may feel that they face better chances of acceptance for asylum since they can argue that returning to their countries of origin would expose them to a Muslim death sentence. In Afghanistan and Iran, for instance, any person who leaves Islam for another faith can face the death penalty. However, by accepting Christianity, converts also expose themselves to persecution on the part of Muslims living in Europe. Currently, the Muslim population in Germany is estimated to be 4 million out of the total 80 million people living in Germany.
There have been reports of Muslims looting Christian churches and schools, and also harassing Christian refugees. Nonethless, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has disavowed any perceived notion that Muslims must convert to Christianity in order to stay in Germany. Islam, said Merkel this month, "belongs in Germany."
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