Monday, 30 May 2016 13:21

Conversion for Convenience?

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IMAGE Convenience Simplified and bigger arrowIn the early 70s, we heard a lot of stories about marriage for convenience. Many women from developing countries married men in developed countries hoping to improve their circumstances in life. They hoped for better jobs, better environment, better privileges and better homes. It was also a motivation to be able to bring their siblings and parents to their new home country.

This year, countries in Europe have experienced a similar phenomenon but more of changing not their spouses but their religion. Hundreds of Muslim refugees are converting to Christianity. According to online media The Daily Beast1, hundreds are queuing up in Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands to be baptised as Christians. However, Europeans are not very convinced that this is an inner change of heart. The skeptics are worried that this is just a way of improving their chance of getting asylum.

But refugees are human beings, just like you and me, who are always looking for better ways to live this one life that we have. The world is so abundantly blessed with food and resources enough to feed all the people in this world.

Last month, a Muslim man called my office to ask me how to convert to Christianity immediately as he was travelling the following day. He wanted to be baptised to change his name so he could directly apply for a job when he arrived at this destination. Working in this prosperous Christian country for over two decades, I have witnessed several Muslim jobseekers changing their names to Christian names on their resumes just to get a job sooner. They did not even bother getting baptised.

So, have we, citizens of Christian countries, failed our needy Muslim brothers and sisters that they have to resort to this kind of name changing activity? Do names really matter whether they are applying for asylum or a much needed job?

One of my cradle Catholic Christian friends was named Mohammed by his Dad. But he has a great job working in Information Technology (IT). This industry does not seem to worry too much if you have a Muslim name or not as long as you can do the job. I have noticed many Hindus work in IT here in Australia. Most employers do not worry about your name. You just have to prove you can do the job!

Perhaps, Christian countries in Europe may have to learn something from Australia. But then again, we do not have millions of refugees come in at one period. And we are still amazed at the generosity of the majority of the people of Europe who welcome our needy brothers and sisters during their most difficult times.

So, is conversion for convenience wrong? Well, I do not really blame them. All we need at this time is a heart that understands the deeper human needs of refugees and asylum seekers in our midst.