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According to the Guardian:

A growing number of Muslim refugees in Europe are converting to Christianity, according to churches, which have conducted mass baptisms in some places.

Reliable data on conversions is not available but anecdotal evidence suggests a pattern of rising church attendance by Muslims who have fled conflict, repression and economic hardship in countries across the Middle East and central Asia.

Complex factors behind the trend include heartfelt faith in a new religion, gratitude to Christian groups offering support during perilous and frightening journeys, and an expectation that conversion may aid asylum applications.

At Trinity church in the Berlin suburb of Steglitz, the congregation has grown from 150 two years ago to almost 700, swollen by Muslim converts, according to Pastor Gottfried Martens. Earlier this year, churches in Berlin and Hamburgreportedly held mass conversions for asylum seekers at municipal swimming pools.

The Austrian Catholic church logged 300 applications for adult baptism in the first three months of 2016, with the Austrian pastoral institute estimating 70% of those converting are refugees.

At Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral in the UK, a weekly Persian service attracts between 100 and 140 people. Nearly all are migrants from Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere in central Asia.

One in four confirmations conducted by the bishop of Bradford, Toby Howarth, over the past year were of converts from Islam. Most were Iranian and most of those were asylum seekers.

Although there are perhaps ulterior motives to such conversions:

Last year, the Austrian bishops’ conference published new guidelines for priests, warning that some refugees may seek baptism in the hope of improving their chances of obtaining asylum.

“Admitting persons for baptism who are during the official procedure classified as ‘not credible’ leads to a loss in the church’s credibility across the whole ofAustria,” the new guidelines say.

Since 2014, applicants interested in converting to Christianity with the Austrian church have to go through a one-year “preparation period” during which they are informally assessed. “There has to be a noticeable interest in the faith that extends beyond merely the wish to obtain a piece of paper,” said Friederike Dostal, who coordinates preparation courses in Vienna’s archdiocese.

To which a curate responded:

“When we do confirmations, we work hard to make sure the person is serious. We all have mixed motives. But if someone says ‘I believe this’, who are we to make windows into people’s souls? The only thing I can do is see if people are still there a year later – and often they are.”

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...

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