This documentary published by the BBC in 2016 describes living conditions and the situation that many Pakistani Christians have encountered as they looked for refuge in Thailand after being falsely accused of blasphemy at home.
Although it was created several years ago, the situation has not improved. In fact, many refugees in other countries find themselves in similar situations. Having been forcibly displaced by violence or persecution from their homeland, they have sought asylum in another country - often nearby, and often inhospitable.
A refugee is a displaced person who seeks safety from persecution by going to a new country.
‘‘Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
My name is Rayan Masih*. I am Pakistani but living in Thailand as a refugee for almost 8 years. We are a family of 3 – myself, my wife and my daughter.
In Pakistan, life was good for us as long as we didn’t catch the attention of Islamic extremists. Christians are often persecuted, and many unjustified blasphemy cases are made against us. Muslims consider Christians to be a low class, and we don’t have the same rights as other citizens in our country.
Before I married my wife, she was the victim of a planned forced marriage to a Muslim extremist. This is quite common, and often ends in kidnapping and the “marriage” of an older Muslim man to a young Christian girl. Maira’s parents tried moving to other towns to hide, but there are many Muslims in Pakistan and they work together. Wherever they went, they were found. My cousins knew her family, and they decided it would be good for Maira and I to marry. If she were already married, no one could force her to marry this Muslim man.
But once we were married, the Muslims tried to kill us both.
In his own words, this is the story of *Patience who fled home as a young child, and who is now raising his own family in a refugee camp.
I am a Christian. I have been in refugee camp since I was 5 years old. Kakuma refugee camp is my third refugee camp.
When I was 5 years old, there was civil war in my country (BURUNDI) going on. My parents took us out of the country to the neighboring country of Tanzania. There we were taken to a refugee camp called MUYOVOZI. I was still young but as I grew up our parents told us everything that happened in Burundi that led to us becoming refugees.
Mahdi* lives in Za'atari Refugee Camp in Jordan and has become a friend as we have exchanged emails over the past year. He is caring for his mother, wife and 2 young children. I asked how the pandemic is affecting life for refugees in Jordan and this was his response:
It is difficult to talk about what happened during the last period with words in a few lines, but I will try to speak briefly and I hope to have written abley to explain what has happened.
Alex, a native of Burundi, is currently living in Uganda, a refugee. Here you'll catch a glimpse of a young man articulate and kind hearted, even after the violence he has suffered.
A friend of mine asked me what this DAY signifies to me...
Today is not just another day when I get to hear about stories of refugees. Today is not another day when I get to read reports or articles of the UNHCR about refugees or asylum seekers.
Today is another day when I am reminded of the sad truth that I personally experienced as a teenager and now growing into it. About 70.8 million people worldwide have been forced to flee their home countries due to war, conflict and persecution and about 30 million of them are under the age of 18 (UN Refugee Agency). It is real, the world is terribly suffering.
Today, am reminded of the day I had to take a bus alone for 20 hours straight leaving my family and everything I knew, to save my life. I crossed two borders in freezing cold weather, arrived in a foreign country and applied for asylum (a term that I had heard only in Movies back then).
Among the many emails I received in January 2019, one was from a young father named Mahdi,* a Syrian refugee in Jordan with his wife and their 2 young children. His mother fled with them when they left Syria. I do not know what happened to his father. He has not said, and I have not asked.
Over the course of the year we have become friends of a sort. He has internet access and time, so he has learned alot about Canada. Unlike others, he knows that it is not winter all year round in Canada!
"I know that Canada has a summer, but with nice temperatures, Canada's winter is warm like the hearts of Canadians and the gentle autumn like the smiles of Canadians and spring gives the fragrance from the heart of Canadians and the summer is as beautiful as the morals of Canadians, a tribute to the land that received the stranger and refugees gently and generously from all over the earth."
If he ever makes it here and spends a winter in any part of Canada other than Vancourver Island I expect he may describe it differently!
Kitala first contact AGC RSI in November 2017. We have emailed back and forth several times over these past two years. In my efforts to better understand what life is like for refugees, I asked Kitala if he would take some photos and write to explain for us who are so far removed from his experience what life is like for them in a refugee camp. Kitala lives in Kakuma, a refugee camp in Kenya that hosts over 186,000 refugees. These are his words and his photos.
First and foremost, Kakuma refugee camp has a semi-arid climate with temperature reaching 40 degrees Celsius. The area is always full of dust storms, poisonous spiders, snakes, and scorpions. Outbreaks of malaria, pneumonia, and cholera do not spare refugees, and 3 months ago, one of my neighbors died with cholera.
A poem by Pastor Farshid Fathi
Born in 1979, Farshid has been working in ministry since 1997. In the years 2001 – 2005, he was instrumental in planting 48 underground house churches in his native Iran.
On 25 December 2010, Farshid was arrested along with a number of other church leaders. He was kept 361 days in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, often enduring severe interrogation. In March 2011 Farshid was sentenced to six years in prison for acting against national security through evangelism and promoting Christianity. In 2014 prison guards broke Farshid’s foot and thumb during a prison search. Farshid was later transferred to Rajaei Shahr Prison and released on 21 December 2015. While Farshid was in prison, his wife took their two children to Canada, where they have applied for citizenship.
Today, he remains in Turkey registered as an asylum seeker, but still not recognised as a refugee. Toronto area churches, this is an opportunity for you!
My wilderness is painful, but lovely.
Some parts of my wilderness are covered with thorns and hurt my feet,
but I love it, and that's why I call it 'lovely pain'.
My wilderness is so hot that my tears disappear before falling on the ground,
but it is cool under Your shadows.
Josephine first contactedin October 2017. Their family of 4 had arrived in Bangkok in September 2012, but by the time she contacted us, she was caring for her 2 teenaged children alone. Her husband was in the Immigration Detention Centre ... again. William had previously been arrested for overstaying his visa and incarcerated for 18 months before being released in May 2015. In May 2016 he was arrested again. His visa was still expired and he was not willing to return with his family to their native Pakistan. He remains in the IDC today.
I have been emailing with Josephine semi-regularly since that first contact a year and a half ago. I have long admired her resilience, strength of character and love for Jesus.
Last week her daughter Yashap wrote to tell me she had written an essay that had been published in an American on-line magazine. I was certain you would want to hear her words.
I have often wondered what it would be like to be forced from my home - not just my house, but my city ... my province ... my country. To have to leave, not because I want to, but because there is NO. OTHER. OPTION.
When it comes times to flee, how does one get from Democratic Republic of Congo to Hong Kong? Is that intentional, or does it "just happen" as seemingly insignificant choices are made until eventually one finds themselves 10,000km from where they began.
And now, life in a new country ... a new language, a new culture, new people, no family. Where does one start? To find housing? To find work? Is it even possible to work as an asylum seeker? This is not a new home; this is just a place to stop-over. Because 98% of refugee claimants are refused. So where does one begin? How does one live?