According to Austrian website Kurier, 83 adults were approved for baptism in Vienna in 2016, with Friederike Dostal of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference estimating that about half of them were Muslims, mainly from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iran. This figure is up from one-third in 2015.
The story at Kurier —roughly translated via Google—tells of one refugee preparing to convert:
Black sunglasses covered his eyes, he doesn’t want to reveal his name, fearing for his family. “You can call me Christoph, that’s my Christian name.” Christoph is an elderly refugee from Afghanistan; since 2012 he has lived in Austria. At the end of the year, he will be a Catholic, baptized in a Vienna church: “This could be my death sentence.”
…To meet people like Christoph, is difficult. The Catholic Church is very concerned about the safety of the candidates for baptism, for repeatedly tell 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 catechumen 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.
In fluent English, the dark-haired Afghan told of his faith and the flight to Austria. “A friend brought me from Pakistan with the 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.
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