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ICV visit Pakistani Christian Asylum seekers in Bangkok, Thailand

On October 25, 2015 International Christian Voice visited Bangkok, Thailand to visit the Pakistani Christian asylum seekers and refugees. The ICV team consisted of Peter Bhatti, Tanveer Joseph, Sara Joseph, Nitasha Bhatti and Melissa Augusto. The visit lasted for a week and the team returned back to Canada on November 3, 2015.ICV deligation going to IDC center

The main purpose of the visit was for International Christian Voice to get firsthand knowledge and experience of what is happening with the Pakistani Christians in Bangkok. As the team visited families from home to home and held several round table discussions with asylum seekers, ICV found that the conditions of the Christians living in Bangkok are much more severe than was expected.

On October 26, 2015, the first full day of the trip, ICV had the privilege of meeting with a refugee lawyer working in an asylum access center. There, an in-depth meeting was held to discuss the problems facing the Pakistani Christian asylum seekers. Amongst many things, in the meeting suggestions were brainstormed for how help can be given to asylum seekers. The lawyer shared what the center has been doing to help refugees and asylum seekers and gave suggestions to ICV for what they can do to better help the Pakistani Christians of Thailand.

Meeting with christian Asylam seekersAfter the meeting, ICV made its way to visit families in their homes. In the building that they visited lived many Pakistani Christian families. After dinner, ICV held a meeting on the rooftop of the building to hear from the families about their situation and the issues they are facing.

The next day, International Christian Voice had the honor of visiting asylum seekers who have been put into the immigration detention center (IDC). Each member of ICV was able to meet one person inside the IDC.   Before entering, food packages were prepared to bring for the individuals. In the detention center, there is nothing to eat or drink except hard boiled rice and cucumber water so many look forward to the meals brought by those visiting. A few days after, Nitasha, Sara and Melissa visited the IDC again.

Following the visit to the IDC, International Christian Voice held a roundtable discussion with Pakistan Christian community members. The next day on October 28, 2015, ICV had a meeting with representatives of the UNHCR so a roundtable discussion was held a day before so that ICV can properly represent the Pakistani Christians and be a better voice of those suffering. It was a very informative meeting and much more was learnt about the different complications that face the Pakistani Christian asylum seekers and refugees in Thailand.

When ICV met with representatives of the UNHCR the next day, the meeting that was scheduled to be for half an hour ended up being a three hour meeting. ICV had the chance to express all the concerns of the Pakistani Christians with the UNHCR and the UNHCR was very responsive and assured that they will continue to work to the best of their abilities to help all those seeking asylum in Bangkok.IMG 0271

Following this meeting, the team made its way to the Canadian embassy located in Bangkok to discuss with them also the same concerns and see how Canada can be of even more help. The Canadian embassy was extremely receptive for which we are very grateful. They assured us that they will continue an ongoing dialogue with the Thai government so that it will stop putting asylum seekers into detention centers and do more to protect asylum seekers and refugees.

On the day that the team was supposed to return to Canada, they also had a meeting the United States embassy in Bangkok who was also very responsive and they too promised to keep working to help the Pakistani Christian asylum seekers of Thailand,

International Christian Voice created hundreds of care packages for families. The packages were funded by members of the Canadian Pakistani Christian community. In Thailand, those seeking asylum are unable to work, they are unable to provide for their families and very often people do not know where their next meal is going to come from. The care packages provided by the Canadian Pakistani Christian community will help provide for the people of Thailand for at least a month.IMG 0134

Throughout their trip ICV continued to meet with hundreds of families, hearing their stories and sharing in the grief of their brothers and sisters. On Sunday November 1, 2015 the team met even more families in the Church service held in Pastor Thongchai’s Urdu service. ICV has no words to express the gratitude they have for the Pakistani Christians living in Bangkok. The ICV team was treated with so much honour, love and respect for which they are very, very grateful. International Christian Voice promises to continue being the voice of the voiceless Pakistan Christians of Bangkok until there is permanent solution through which they can begin to live free and happy lives.

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Sara Sumbal needs your help

Sara’s Story

My name is Sara Sumbal. My family and I are asylum seekers in Bangkok, Thailand. We fled our home in Karachi, Pakistan, in 2013 when we became victims of persecution after my father, a Christian evangelist, was labeled a blasphemer under the Blasphemy Law for evangelising a Muslim man. My father was initially threatened by two Muslim clerics to stop evangelising or they would kill him and his family. They then ordered him to convert to Islam and all would be well. When he refused, they and the male members of the Muslim man’s family beat him unconscious and left him for dead on a garbage heap. 

          Sara with her family prior to their detention

After my father’s recovery, the extremists threatened him again with death because he continued holding prayer meetings. Because we were traumatised and terrified, our family fled form Karachi to a friend’s home in the city of Bahawalpur.

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Shahbaz Bhatti was elected to the National Assembly of Pakistan in 2008 and named Federal Minister for Minorities a portfolio he accepted because of the opportunity it offered to defend the oppressed and marginalized of Pakistan.

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