Posts tagged ‘Religious freedom’

November 21st, 2011

Any Mosques Turning into Churches?

While participating in a panel discussion at Moody Church recently, Dr. Erwin Lutzer asked me a question a Muslim man had asked him. He was trying to highlight the plight of persecuted church in Muslim majority countries. The Muslim had argued Islam was the true religion simply because there were no mosques turning into churches but there are churches turning into mosques. The question was, “Are there any mosques turning into churches?”

In my answer, I noted the only mosque I knew of in Cordova, Spain, which was turned into a church building. Muslims had conquered Cordova and turned a Catholic church into a mosque. It remained a mosque for a few centuries until Spaniards overthrew the city and turned the mosque into what it used to be, a church building.

How this Muslim man would claim Islam is a true religion based on mosques not turning into church buildings is baffling. I wonder if he knows most Muslim majority countries do not even allow repairs on existing church buildings let alone establishment of new ones, which is an avenue for turning mosques into church buildings!

I added, no mosques are turning into church buildings because the playing field is not leveled in Muslim majority countries. There is no religious freedom for non-Muslims. Many Muslims who secretly follow Jesus Christ would come forward and establish a place of worship for themselves if it weren’t for threats they face.

We need to tell our Muslim friends a building is not what constitutes a church. A church is a body of believers. A Christian—one who professes Jesus Christ is the Son of God and abides by His Word—is a member of “church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven.” This Church even has members who are of Muslim background in a country as restrictive and hostile to Christians as Saudi Arabia. Though without walls, this church is flourishing and if freedom of religion were granted, would convert mosques into church buildings.

June 8th, 2011

Answered Prayers: End of My Asylum Case Imminent

I am very grateful to all who prayed for my wife and I the past year. My asylum case has been reopened, which means I will not be leaving the United States in order to pursue other legal US immigration status.

A year ago the Associated Press broke the news that the federal court of appeals had declined to overturn a lower court’s decision to deny me asylum and refused to reverse the order to send me back to Kenya, where I had suffered persecution for converting to Christianity. I learned of the court’s decision from the media. Since then, I filed a motion to reopen my asylum case with the Board of Immigration Appeals and it has been granted (AP story). The decision in part reads:

Considering the totality of circumstances presented in the respondent’s motion, which has not been opposed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the proceedings are reopened under the provisions of 8 C.F.R. § 1003.2(a), and the record will be remanded to the Immigration Judge to provide the respondent a further opportunity to establish his eligibility for relief from removal…

FURTHER ORDER (sic): The record is remanded to the Immigration Judge for further proceedings not inconsistent with this order and for the entry of a new decision.

The motion, which you can find HERE, showed new evidence of change in country conditions in Kenya. I cited sworn statements of cases of severe persecutions of Muslim converts to Christianity with at least one of them killed since my petition was denied in 2006.

This has been a long and arduous process for my wife and I. The order to reopen my asylum case is our first real good news regarding immigration in almost 9 years. If you think only those who overstay their visas or undocumented immigrants run into manifestations of broken US immigration laws, think again. I filed for asylum in August 2002 while I was still in legal status, but my application was denied and was not referred to the Immigration Court for adjudication. My asylum interview was only 45 minutes long. A veteran immigration attorney and law professor told me afterward the asylum office normally decides even before an interview which asylum application to deny. Since my interview was short, it met that criterion. I reapplied and the asylum office told me to petition the Immigration Court. Here is an excerpt of a message I received from my attorney about my subsequent application:

I have some disturbing news for you.  I just received back from the Chicago Asylum Office your application for asylum. In the cover letter from the Immigration Service, I am told that, because your previous application was denied by the Asylum Office, that you must make your request for asylum to the Immigration Court.

This makes no sense and does not comport with the Immigration Service’s own rules.It is also not consistent with other cases: for example, I just filed an application for a young man from Ivory Coast who is in your same procedural situation and his interview at the Asylum Office is next week.

My question for you is this:  given that you would likely be denied again by the Asylum Office (it is very rare that the Asylum Office will grant asylum on a second application if the first application was already denied) and sent to the Immigration Court, do you wish to make your request to the Immigration Court directly?  Where you make your application makes very little difference but, in terms of timing, if you skip the step of going to the Asylum Office interview, you could have a hearing in the Immigration Court in late-summer or early-fall while, if you go through the Asylum Office, you will not have a hearing in the Immigration Court until late-fall. Either way is fine for me but I want you to make the decision because the timing may affect other plans you have. [Emphasis mine.]

I filed my third application with the Court and had a hearing in 2006!

The Judge found my testimony credible but denied my asylum petition because US State Department Country Reports on Kenya did not show any persecution of Muslim apostates in Kenya. Sadly, US Embassy in Nairobi mostly relies on Kenyan mainstream media to compile Kenya Country Report and there are reasons discussed below they have been silent on issues of religious persecution. I have complied with every request or order of the US government and appealed every adverse decision in accordance with established US immigration laws.

In the case of a Muslim convert who was killed in February 2010, the Kenyan police determined his murder was a robbery, even disregarding death threats he had reported to them. There is no known media report in Kenya of his gruesome murder, let alone a report revealing his killing was on the account of his apostasy.

I am in contact with other Muslim apostates in Kenya. Some of them receive death threats on regular basis. The police have been of little help. The Kenyan media has turned a deaf ear to their plights as well. The closest to a news report is in the US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report 2010:

Local Christian organizations reported that individuals who converted to Christianity from Islam, particularly individuals of Somali ethnic origin, were often threatened with violence or death by Muslim religious leaders and their families. These threats prompted some individuals to go into hiding.

I have made inquiries to the Kenyan media regarding the lack of coverage of religious persecution. A Kenyan reporter said there was news blackout because the Kenyan “media policies are very strict, especially when it comes to reports on religion.” He even averred how the East African Standard offices were burnt down in the mid 1990s because the newspaper published an article on Islam written by a Muslim scholar. An Ismaili Muslim organization is the principal shareholder of the Daily Nation, a Kenyan newspaper with a wide circulation. Perhaps that explains why Muslim persecution of apostates got no coverage in the paper.

I am grateful for the Board’s decision granting me options for immigration relief. The order for me to leave the United States has been vacated and I will have a new hearing to determine my new immigration status.

Going through the asylum process has been very hard for me. Thoughts of whether I have been trying to “save” my life have lingered. Jesus said, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”[1] Am I putting my trust in the United States’ government to save me from persecution that God has apportioned for me? I have sometimes wondered why I have been going through this arduous process with everything seeming to work against me but now I am very thankful for this good news. The end is imminent.


[1] Luke 17:33, NIV.