A former imam from Pakistan who migrated to Germany and converted to Christianity now claims that he faces death threats in his native country from many including members of his own family.
The 34-year-old said he grew up in a religious household in Pakistan and trained from the age of 8 to become an imam, just as his dad and grandpa had been before him. Following missionary work in Greece, where he had planned to start his own mosque, he began his conversion to Christianity and now says he fears for his life in Pakistan, German tabloid Bild reports.
The German paper identifies the imam under a different name, Haroon Masih, for his own safety and according to Mr Masih it was the charity of a Christian couple in Greece that began his journey to Christianity, saying that he had previously been taught to reject other faiths.
"During my studies, I persecuted and oppressed Christians myself. Then the question flared up in my heart: why?"
After converting Masih moved back to Pakistan where he founded an underground church that was eventually discovered. After the discovery, he claims he was "beaten half to death" by members of his own family and friends along with others from his town.
Several other attempts were made on his life, he claims, including one involving an AK-47 that jammed before he could be shot, leading the then-26-year-old to flee to Germany and seek asylum.
Despite being granted asylum in Germany, Masih was still under threat from violent Islamists and claims that he was stabbed by 2 men who he said spoke Urdu, the main language spoken in Pakistan.
Masih is just one of a large number of Christians persecuted around the world, according to the Christian charity Open Doors, who recently released a report showing that over 4,100 were murdered last year because of their faith. A total of 245 million Christians across the globe now face persecution according to the report.
In 2016, Open Doors reported that as many as 40,000 Christians in Germany were under threat of persecution, many of them converts from Islam.