Christianity and Conversion among Migrants

Moving Faith and Faith Movement in a Transit Area


Author: Darren Carlson
In Christianity and Conversion among Migrants, Darren Carlson explores the faith, beliefs, and practices of migrants and refugees as well as the Christian organizations serving them between 2014–2018 in Athens, Greece. This is the first major study of migrant faith communities and refugee centers conducted in Athens. The study traces the travel stories of participants as they leave their home countries and migrate to Athens.

Darren Carlson discusses the ways evangelical and Pentecostal Christians served migrants along their journey, how churches and specific refugee centers served and proclaimed the gospel, and the impact Christian witness had on migrants, particularly Muslims, who were converting to evangelical Christian faith.

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Darren M. Carlson, Ph.D (2018), London School of Theology, is President of Training Leaders International and teaches at various institutions in the majority world. He is also General Editor for the Journal of Global Christianity.
This book contributes to a theoretical enrichment of the myriad intersections between religion and forced migration. Hitherto, the forced migration field witnessed a dearth of research on religious imaginaries in refugees and migrants’ journeys. The author, located in diaspora missiology, and utilizing research triangulation and a multi-layered analysis, provides a rich longitudinal study that constructs complex narratives of travel, conversion and faith of refugees and migrants, but also role of migrant organizations in Athens. This book fills an important lacuna by privileging migrants’ agency, voices, profoundly formative Christian experiences and religious imaginaries in transitional, liminal contexts of displacement, journeys and sojourning. — Afe Adogame, Maxwell M. Upson Professor of Religion and Society, Princeton Theological Seminary, USA.

Darren Carlson has broken new ground with his portraits of migrant Christian communities in Athens. There have been studies of churches formed by immigrants in places like London, but this is the first analysis of churches composed of migrants from Africa and the Middle East in transit to a final destination in Europe. — Dr Mark Beaumont, Research Associate, London School of Theology

Christianity and Conversion among Migrants is a theoretically robust ethnographic account of immigrants, refugees, and the Christian ministries which serve them in Athens. Carlson provides a wealth of moving stories, interviews, and analysis to show how testimony to the life of Jesus is at work amongst these people on the move. For confessing Christians, Carlson also provides powerful stories for how the biblical practice of hospitality to strangers is being embodied in migrants, refugees, and others in the 21st century in Athens. — Joshua W. Jipp, Associate Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

The migrants’ conversion to Christianity is one of several ‘responses’ to crises people on the move face. Whilst there are fine works on conversion to Christianity, this ethnographic analysis goes further. i. it rigorously maintains a distinction between Iranian, Afghan, Eritrean and Ghanaian migrants into Greece and offers an empirically supported and unexpectedly complex reasons for their conversion; ii. It underlines converts’ agency in conversion without over simplifying it by excluding the agency of the Christian workers; and iii. it highlights the crucial sense in which the context where this occurs is significantly different from other analyses of conversion stories; in that Greece, where all this unfolds, merely serves as a transit station in the converts’ stories. This book is an excellent resource for both missiologist and conversion specialists; it is also a must read for those starting their research in these fields. — David Emmanuel Singh, The Oxford Centre for Mission Studies
List of Tables and FiguresI

1 Methodological Reflections
 1.1 Overview of Research
 1.2 Missiology, Diaspora, and Ethnography
 1.3 Critical Realism, Theological Understanding, and Social Science
 1.4 Challenges to Conducting Research with Immigrant Populations
 1.5 The Participants
 1.6 Insider/Outsider
 1.7 Interviews
 1.8 Participant Observation
 1.9 Research Ethics

2 The Field of Study
 2.1 The Great Movement of People
 2.2 Reasons for Migration
 2.3 Global Christianity
 2.4 Diaspora Christianity Literature Review
 2.5 Definitions
 2.6 Christian Witness and Migration

3 Travel
 3.1 The Basics
 3.2 Leaving Home
 3.3 Travel Stories
 3.4 The Migration Industry
 3.5 Conclusion

4 Evangelical Refugee Centers
 4.1 Oasis
 4.2 Helping Hands
 4.3 Hellenic Ministries
 4.4 AMG International
 4.5 Father’s Heart
 4.6 Bridges
 4.7 Faros
 4.8 Issues Faced
 4.9 Conclusion

5 Conversion from Islam to Evangelical Christianity
 5.1 Conversion from Islam to Christianity Literature
 5.2 Defining Conversion
 5.3 Reasons Given for Converting
 5.4 Dreams and Visions
 5.5 Fake Conversions and Reconversions
 5.6 What Happens Next
 5.7 Conclusion

6 “Churches”
 6.1 Eritrean Church of Athens
 6.2 Redeemed Lighthouse
 6.3 Polis: Glyfada Church and Exarchia Church
 6.4 Iranian Evangelical Church of Athens
 6.5 Agape Church—Afghan
 6.6 Persian Leader 4’s Church
 6.7 Man Cave Church
 6.8 Conclusion

7 Summary
 7.1 Immigration as Mission
 7.2 Hospitality, Evangelism, and Tensions
 7.3 “Western” vs. “Biblical”

8 Chosen Sojourners
 8.1 Hospitality to Strangers
 8.2 Hospitality as Advocacy
 8.3 Hospitality as Gospel Proclamation
 8.4 Salvation for the Migrant

Appendix A: List of Known Migrant Churches in Athens, Greece

Appendix B: Interview Guide

Appendix C: Key Issues to Address While Attending Migrant Churches and Refugee Centers
All interested in migrant faith communities, evangelical mission practices, Muslim conversion, and Christian witness in a transit area.