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Barb Wire

From Muslim to Christian: The Atlantic Offers Sensitive Look at Berlin Community


When you share lentils and rice pilaf with people; when you attend church with them and talk to their pastor; when you pay a follow-up visit weeks later; you naturally convey a more intimate feel for your topic.

The writer, Laura Kasinof, talks to three Iranian refugees in Berlin. She gets an overview with their pastor, a Lutheran minister, as well as an interchurch leader. She conveys the jubilant mood at a worship service. And she attempts to hint at the size of the trend of conversion, although she doesn’t get comprehensive figures.

Kasinof did the story on a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Whatever the sum, it was well spent. Her article is sensitive and thoughtful, and vastly superior to a similar piece in the Daily Beast this spring. As my colleague Julia Duin said then, the Beast somehow managed to link the trend to the U.S. presidential elections. Almost like clicking a nation-level selfie.

Astonishingly, the Daily Beast article has no quotes from any actual refugees, except those it borrowed from a newspaper. The Atlantic article doesn’t neglect that vital facet:

The man who led the prayer said he had converted to Christianity in Iran after getting hold of a smuggled Farsi-language Bible. ‘Before it was just theoretical to me, but now I can see it and feel it by my pastor’s kindness,’ he said. Another said he converted in Iran because of an old neighbor who had been born Christian. Christians, he said, ‘were kind people. In Islam, the person who does the killing and the person who dies yells Allahu Akbar,’ he said. ‘In Iran,’ he noted, referring to the Arab occupation of Persia that began in the seventh century, ‘we became Muslim by force…’

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