Just goes to show how it is increasingly difficult to ferret out the frauds from those who are in real dire need of help. It can’t be done properly when there is a flood of people arriving daily.
More and more Muslims are baptized in Vienna. Christoph is one of them.
In recent months, the number of Muslim refugees who want to convert, increased massively throughout Austria. In five to ten questions listed alone the Archdiocese of Vienna weekly. 2016 made Muslims roughly half of the 83 approved for adult baptismal candidates in Vienna, estimates Friederike Dostal of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference. In 2015 it 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 2017.
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 catechism candidate 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 ”Taufe Begleiter”.
In fluent English the dark-haired Afghan told of his faith and the flight to Austria. “A friend from Pakistan brought me a 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.
Tortured by 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. Christoph’s current location will not be published for security reasons.
He even made it undetected to Kabul, from there to Turkey and to Vienna. Here he was treated in hospital first of all, because of his injuries. The first months Christoph lived in Traiskirchen.
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.