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Canada to rescue Pakistani Christian forced into hiding in Bangkok

BANGKOK (CNS): Canada has been asked to rescue a Pakistani Christian refugee after a viral video calling for his death swept through the refugee community in Bangkok, Thailand.
The appeal by Australian Jesuit Father Michael Kelly was made to Canada’s ambassador to Thailand, Donica Pottie, after Australia rejected an emergency asylum appeal from Faraz Pervaiz, a prominent defender of Christian rights. 
 
It comes two months after Canada gave asylum to Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman forced into hiding from Muslim extremists following false accusations of blasphemy.
 
The Canadian Embassy in Bangkok told Father Kelly that his request had been forwarded to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. The Toronto archdiocesan Office for Refugees said it would sponsor Pervaiz and his family if they are resettled in Canada.
 
Pervaiz fled from Pakistan to Bangkok after being accused of blasphemy under laws that can result in a death sentence. He has several fatwas—religious decrees calling for his death—against him.
 
His location in Bangkok was revealed in mid-July in a video that went viral on social media. Following death threats by phone and text, he moved his family to a secret location outside of the city.
 
The video posted on Facebook, YouTube and several WhatsApp groups called for jihadi fighters to travel to Bangkok and kill Pervaiz. Several mullahs attached fatwas to the video to endorse his killing.
 
“She’s saying (in the video) this is the responsibility of every Muslim in this world to find me and to kill me,” Pervaiz told The Catholic Register, adding, “Since this (video) proclamation, the danger is that the jihadis are coming, day by day. Once they come to know exactly where I am, it takes one hour.”
 
Father Kelly is supporting Pervaiz, his wife, three children and Pervaiz’s parents.
 
“The would-be assassins continue to ring and assure Faraz that they’ll find him and kill him and his family,” Father Kelly said in an email. “I’d take them at their word.”
 
A longtime Bangkok resident and advocate for refugee rights, the priest is assisting the Toronto archdiocesan Office for Refugees to resettle up to 63 Pakistani Christian families through Canada’s private sponsorship programme. 
 
The number of refugees headed to Canada will depend on how many dioceses and parishes agree to make the financial and volunteer commitment to resettle them, but that process takes an average of two years. Father Kelly is seeking immediate action to rescue Pervaiz.
 
He appealed to the Australian government in a July 18 email, but after an initially positive response, the request was denied on July 20 without an explanation.
 
Pervaiz has been a target of Pakistan’s religious conservatives since he began speaking out in defense of Christians after a 2013 mob attack on a Christian neighbourhood in Lahore. 
 
He led protests demanding action from the police and ran a blog in which he challenged both the politics and theology of Islam, presented his own interpretations of the Qu’ran and criticised the Prophet. His father was a political leader in the Christian community and was nominated to sit in Parliament.
 
“We are not criminals. Our only crime is that we speak against their brutality,” Pervaiz said. “I don’t have words to explain to you their barbarism toward us. How Christians are marginalised every day. No one raised this issue.”

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