Photo Credit: Diocese of Lichfield
[The Guardian, by Nazia Parveen] The congregation of St Mark’s church in Stoke-on-Trent are in tears. The old walls are amplifying a booming version of the traditional Christian hymn Thanks to God as an hour-long baptism ceremony draws to a close. It’s a powerful, emotive rendition, yes, but the tears are for something else.
This particular voice is the Iranian Muslim Amir Nowjavni, singing in Farsi, who is one of 16 asylum seekers converting to Christianity on a Saturday afternoon.
The white faces who used to make up the congregation of this tiny church in a deprived area of Stoke have been replaced by an eclectic mix of Iranians, Syrians, Iraqis, Bangladeshis and Eritreans who are all either looking for salvation in another religion or simply seeking charity.
In just three years, the Revd Sally Smith has presided over this total transformation of St Mark’s from a middle-class church to something resembling a refugee processing centre.
It is far from an isolated case. In fact, Smith’s story is a microcosm of what is happening across churches in Europe where a growing number of Muslim refugees are converting to Christianity.