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NZ Churches in Plea for Iranian Convert: CEN 8.24.07 p 9. August 24, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand & Polynesia, Church of England Newspaper, Immigration, Iran.
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NEW ZEALAND’S Anglican Archbishops have issued an appeal for clemency for a failed asylum seeker who risks deportation to Iran.

On Aug 17 Archbishops David Moxon and Brown Turei called upon the government to grant Ali Panah refugee status. A convert to Christianity from Islam, Panah faces grave risks if returned to Tehran, the Archbishops said.

Panah has been held by the New Zealand government in administrative detention for 18 months, and began a hunger strike over 40 days ago to protest about his pending deportation.

“As things stand, we fear Mr. Panah will, in the near future, either die at home in Iran – or die here in New Zealand,” the Archbishops wrote. “We ask the Minister for Immigration to give him life.”

The Anglican Church leaders affirmed the government’s duty to regulate immigration but said its first priority should be to do “justice. And to deliver justice also requires the exercise of mercy.”

“There is a need for the Government and its officials to take more seriously the concerns about the ongoing persecution of Christians in Iran,” and to grant clemency to Ali Panah.

Immigration Minister David Cunliffe last Monday said the hunger strike had had the benefit of the ‘full rights of the law in respect of his refugee claim and appeal,’ but declined to state whether he was considering granting him a temporary visa.

The populist New Zealand First party’s immigration spokesperson Peter Brown on Aug 17 urged the government not to grant Panah asylum.

Some asylum seekers were trying to “rort the system” by converting to Christianity, he said. “While some may have genuinely found Christianity, it appears somewhat convenient that others have converted to Christianity during the refugee claims and appeal process.

“If this is the case then such stunts are not acceptable and demean genuine refugees,” said

Mr Brown. However, Panah’s vicar, the Rev Clive Sperring, said he had “no doubt whatsoever that his faith is genuine.”

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