German Pastor Sentenced to 2 Years of Probation, Fined $1,700 for Housing Iranian Refugee

Amanda Casanova

A pastor in Germany has been sentenced to two years of probation and a fine of about $1,700 after he housed an Iranian refugee in one of the churches he oversees.

Rev. Stefan Schörk, a United Methodist Church pastor in the German state of Bavaria, was found guilty of “aiding and abetting unauthorized residence.”

Stefan says he is going to appeal the verdict, United Methodist News reports.

He says the young Iranian man “urgently needed” asylum due to an “official failure.” He offered the man asylum in January when he faced deportation to Greece. The man stayed for 15 days. He had initially claimed asylum in Greece but wanted to stay with family members living in Germany.

“When I look someone in the eye who tells me about their suffering, then I have to act,” said Schörk, as reported by BR24.

“That is my faith that I try to live. I preach about love for my enemies and my neighbor every Sunday. So my words must also be in show my deeds.”

The courts, however, said in their decision that only the state can grant asylum.

This is not the first time a German person has faced fines or other punishments for helping refugees.

Earlier this year, Juliana Seelmann, a nun from the Oberzell monastery in southern Germany, was fined for granting “unauthorized residence” to two Nigerian women who were trying to escape forced prostitution in Italy.

In early 2018, churches were able to offer asylum to about 500 people who would have otherwise faced deportation. In 2019, German authorities authorized only a few churches to offer asylum.

“The state wants to criminalize us, even though it is about help in exceptional situations, in absolute emergency situations,” Schörk said. “I am inwardly guided by my conscience and cannot at all act otherwise in my responsibility.”

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Kutay Tanir

Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and She blogs at The Migraine Runner.