- The Washington Times - Friday, May 27, 2016

A pastor in Hamburg, Germany, has sparked debate in the Christian community after holding a Muslim funeral for an former Christian teen who died fighting for the Islamic State terrorist group.

Pastor Sieghard Wilm of the protestant St. Pauli Church held a funeral Friday for 17-year-old “Florent,” who was a Christian before he converted and fled to Syria to join the Islamic state, Breitbart News reported. The teen died last summer under unclear circumstances, though many have speculated he was killed by his own men after criticizing the terrorist group in an audio recording he sent home, the German news agency DPA reported.

“I have had to face a lot of criticism, asking how a pastor can celebrate a funeral for a terrorist,” Mr. Wilm told DPA in an interview. But he said he has also received support.

“We’re not backing away from this tough situation,” said the pastor, who knew Florent for years as a member of the church. “As humans, we don’t get to make the final judgment. That’s only in God’s remit.”

The pastor said this is the first time he’s ever held a Christian-Muslim service for a terrorist.

He said that funeral will look at all facets of Florent’s life, including the good and the bad.

“All the problems he had in life will also come up,” Mr. Wilm told DPA. “It’s a disastrous path he went down.”

“I want to speak about being tempted, about the fact that you can make mistakes in this life and still remain human,” he added.

Florent, who was born into a Christian family in Cameroon and moved to Germany as a small child, converted to Islam when he was 14, DPA reported.

Florent became radicalized, changing his name to Bilal, and eventually fell out of touch with Mr. Wilm.

“We don’t know when he died, or where or at whose hand,” the pastor said.

Florent’s mother, who is Christian, is expected to speak at the funeral.

“I think that’s very brave and an important step as she processes her own grief,” Mr. Wilm told DPA. “They want to mourn. They’ve been holding on to their grief for more than a year.”

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