Pakistani refugees lost everything but Jesus
    September 5 2017 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

    A Pakistani asylum seeker said he is grateful for his family’s safety, even though they have lived in hiding for more than six years. Religious violence forced the family from their country and now, due to an unsuccessful resettlement application to the United Nations (UN), they feel trapped in a foreign land.

    Contributed photo
    Abraham and his wife pray with members of Calvary Baptist Church’s refugee ministry team.

    Yet, they told the Biblical Recorder their faith in God and the help of fellow believers have allowed them to hold out hope for a safe place to restart their lives.
    Abraham*, a Christian and medical doctor by trade, said they fled their home in northeast Pakistan after he was physically beaten and threatened with death by Islamic extremists.
    He, with his wife and three children, sought temporary refuge in Thailand, but said the drawn-out relocation process has been difficult.
    Thailand offers visas for a variety of reasons to Pakistani citizens, such as tourism, education or business, but does not make provisions for international asylum seekers or U.N.-recognized refugees.
    Abraham and his family entered the country on a 30-day tourist visa, but it took years for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to resolve their application for resettlement. The case was denied. Their travel documents have long since expired, and now, six years later, they live in the shadows to avoid deportation or imprisonment by Thai immigration authorities.
    “We don’t have visas,” Abraham said, “but we have Jesus.”

    Confronting extremists

    Trouble began for Abraham and his family in 2009, when his brother witnessed an attack on a Christian colony in Pakistan that left several people dead.
    News reports at the time said hundreds of Muslims began rioting after rumors spread that pages of the Quran had been desecrated. More than a half-dozen Christians were burned alive or shot to death, and many houses were destroyed by fire after demonstrations turned violent.
    Timothy*, Abraham’s brother, offered eyewitness testimony in a police report about the incident, and soon began receiving pressure from Muslim communities to change his on-record statement.
    Abraham was also pressured to convince his brother to cooperate. Both men refused. As a result, several attackers affiliated with extremist organizations were charged and imprisoned.
    Despite the jailing, Timothy still felt the lives of his wife and children were in danger.
    Timothy was now the “bitter enemy” of “almost all the extremists,” Abraham said, so he and his family fled the country. They were able to find temporary shelter in Thailand, before being resettled to Canada.

    Terror’s new target

    Less than two years later, back in Pakistan, the offenders were released on bail. Late one afternoon, only a few days after their release, a group of Muslims forced their way into Abraham’s medical clinic. They ordered patients to leave the facility and began to harass Abraham.
    The men objected to his practice of seeing both Muslim and non-Muslim patients, particularly women, and for providing only one water cooler.
    Abraham said they took exception to a paper calendar that hung in the lobby, which featured Quranic verses in decorative Arabic script on the margins.
    Abraham complied with their demands to remove it, but as he took it down, a corner of the calendar was torn where it had been taped to the wall. The gang became irate. They beat Abraham, hurled insults and tore his clothes.
    A crowd gathered amid the commotion, and the brief distraction allowed Abraham to escape. He ran into his home nearby and locked the door.
    The Muslim group vandalized the clinic, he said, then turned their efforts toward the house. Rocks battered the walls as Abraham called the police. Terrified, his wife and three children huddled in a corner.
    “We thought that day was the last day of our lives,” he said. “I was in a state of agony. My mind was not working, my wife was continuously weeping.”
    After the mob dispersed, someone knocked on the door and announced there would be a meeting at a local mosque the following morning. The doctor was required to attend, they said through the closed doorway.
    Later that night a neighbor telephoned to warn him about the next day’s proceeding.
    Local religious leaders, apparently prompted by an extremist organization, had announced a fatwa – a ruling on a point of Islamic law – against Abraham for allegedly desecrating the Quran.
    “Tomorrow they will kill you,” the caller warned.
    Abraham and his family fled at midnight.
    They first relocated to another region of Pakistan, but it was impossible to conceal their identity, Abraham said, and extremist groups were utilizing local religious organizations to track them.
    “After that we decided to leave our country,” he said.
    Abraham knew that leaving meant the end of his 12-year medical career and the only life they knew, but he was relieved.
    “Thank God we are safe,” he said.

    Waiting with hope

    After six years in Thailand, with no course of action left for resettlement, Abraham and his wife are worried about the circumstances facing their children.
    “[Their] future is destroyed because they don’t have a proper education,” he said.
    But despite the challenges, the family remains hopeful.
    “We have lost everything,” said one of Abraham’s teenage daughters, “but we have found Jesus in our lives.”
    The family cherishes fellow Christians that have come to their aid.
    Calvary Baptist Church, an international congregation in Bangkok, developed a refugee ministry around the time Abraham and his family arrived in the country. The volunteer ministry team delivers food bags on a monthly basis to asylum seekers across the city. They also visit those who have been imprisoned in Bangkok’s Immigration Detention Centre.
    “Our friends show us the real love of Christ,” Abraham said.
    Abraham joins the team when they visit other Pakistani refugees, often translating between English and Urdu.
    “We have learned a lot through this persecution,” he said. “Our God is at work in all situations.”
    *Name changed
    (EDITOR’S NOTE – This article is the last in a three-part series covering the plight of Pakistani refugees in Thailand and the Baptists ministering to them.)
    Other articles in the series:
    Baptists serve Bangkok’s ‘Little Lahore’
    Refugee Ministry: Finding God in grief
    Related stories:
    Distant churches keep close partnership

    9/5/2017 9:52:41 AM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments
    Filed under: Pakistan, Refugees, Terrorism, Thailand

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