Finland has recently seen a rise in the number of Muslim asylum seekers who have converted to Christianity. Despite the fact that the conversion has most often taken place after a refusal, the Church of Finland has faith that they are telling the truth.
All the more asylum seekers have been expressing their desire to convert to Christianity after arriving in Finland and having their applications declined, Finnish national broadcaster Yle reported.
According to Tirsa Forssell of the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri), the recent “crop” of converts includes newcomers such as Afghans and Iraqis, who were seen among proselytes before.
Forssell attributed the rising interest in Christianity to the Church’s active help in aiding the asylum seekers. However, there may also be a more artificial cause for conversion, as the deportation of a Christian to a Muslim country may be deemed unsafe by the authorities.
Although many maintain that these last-hour leaps of faith are driven by the asylum-seekers’ fears of deportation, the Church maintains that they are more concerned about their immortal souls.
At the same time, Finnish priests want to play a bigger role in deciding whether the faith of asylum seekers who convert to Christianity is genuine. Over 400 Finnish priests, mostly Lutheran, signed a petition requesting that Migri make better use of the clergy’s knowledge in dealing with converts.
Previously, Finnish church officials estimated the number of immigrants who have renounced Islam in favor of Christianity at several hundred. Many of the new Christians cited a profound dissatisfaction with Islam as the impetus for their conversion, alongside a long and harrowing asylum process.
In recent months, Finland has been toughening its asylum procedures and is now rejecting the majority of asylum requests from Iraqis, Afghans and Somalis. The only exceptions are made for refugees from especially troubled or war-torn areas.
At the same time, over 5,000 refugees have been reported as missing, having disappeared from the authorities’ radar shortly after receiving a refusal.