Pakistani Christian asylum seekers in Thailand celebrate birth of Christ despite fear of arrest

Image of Pak-Christian asylum seeker children singing and dancing to Christmas Carols.

Over 50 Pakistani Christian asylum seekers celebrated Christmas at a BPCA organised service, despite a real and present danger that they could be arrested
whilst worshiping. 

Residents of a condo in the district of Pratcha Utchit one of the most deprived areas of Thailand came together on a roof (no money was wasted on hall
hire) to share a time of worship, biblical reflection and prayers, whilst celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ at 4pm on Saturday 24th December 2016.

The service and Christmas party was organised by the BPCA after the community explained their fear of arrest, after a recent spate of arrests in areas
near their condo in a deprived outskirt of Bangkok,  that had led to the imprisonment of 55 Pak-Christians within the last few months

(click here)
 and (here).  Many
of the asylum seekers had decided they would not leave the confines of their condo especially mothers who did not want to be separated from their children
should an arrest take place. 

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The reluctance to leave their homes meant that for many weeks these suffering Christians were no longer attending local churches, normally a bastion
of hope against their re-persecuted state in Thailand. Depriving them of counsel, aid and preventing them the opportunity to undertake religious practices
and learning usually observed by Christians. 

With only 24 hours to arrange things our new lead officer Kathriya Louis, who took over from Raymond John our previous employee found to be acting
fraudulently, organised the event. Her understanding of the needs of residents of the condo and ties with the community meant she was able to allay
fears whilst her strong community ties enabled her to coordinate three pastors to preside over the service jointly with short notice. 

Working with a team of volunteers Kathriya purchased a Christmas tree and presents for all the children, which comprised good quality t-shirts and
dresses.  The gifts were chosen with Pakistani culture in mind, purchasing toys for these children was deemed wasteful, instead we wanted to address
the desire for Pakistani Christians to purchase new clothes for Christmas a long held tradition, thus reducing the burden for new clothes from mothers,
many of whom still have husbands who are incarcerated in the brutal Immigration Detention Centres in Bangkok.

We purchased a Christmas tree so that the community would feel more at home and helped create a Churnee (Nativity) with the children, all traditions
that would take place in Pakistan and thus we hoped to fill the void that many families have been feeling since becoming stranded in Thailand.  
Whilst making the nativity the children were all reminded of the Christmas story and the message of hope that Christ’s birth brings.  Moreover
they were taught that Christ himself was a child refugee a fact that gave them solace as they realized he went on to fulfill prophecy and paved the
way for their salvation.  On a written placard by the Christmas Tree was written “Santa is not real but Jesus is.  He is the reason for the
season.”  The message reminded people that Christ was central to the celebration of Christmas despite commercial association with a fictional
Santa Claus. based loosely on the life of a long dead saint who himself venerated Christ.

Children sang carols and thanks to Pastor Salamat, Pastor Adnan and Pastor Thomas attendees enjoyed good scriptural teaching, sermons focused on faith
for salvation and God’s promise to endure through our struggles with us even coming to earth as a child to give us hope of salvation.  

At the beginning of the service all families were given a food package to sustain them over the Christmas period.  Packages contained bottles
of oil, packets of sugar, bags of chappatti flour, boxes of tea bags, packets of vermicelli, cartons of milk, bags of rice and a small prayer.

After the service Kat travelled to Christchurch an Anglican Church near the centre of Bangkok and English speaking Anglican Church, led by Pastor Tim
Eaddy for who the BPCA are funding Thai classes for asylum seekers.  There Kat made contact with local Pakistani Christians and obtained further
emails for our database.  Our desire is to create a network of asylum seekers who will be made more knowledgeable through our regular newsletter.

Please pray for Kathriya, as she works under threat of arrest for being an illegal overstayer despite being a UNHCR registered asylum seekers and committed
servant of God.

Please also pray that the nation of Thailand relinquishes it’s focus on re-persecuting asylum seekers, and that they allow asylum seekers the opportunity
to remain there in safety as they await their refugee status determination via the UNHCR. 

At the end of the service the BPCA also shared a communal meal with all the visitors and listened to their concerns, providing advice and counsel where

Kathriya Louis, said:

“The Pakistani Christian asylum seekers community wanted to hold a service at their condo which is often forgotten by charities and other churches, due to their far distance away from the centre of Bangkok where those helping asylum seekers can be found.

“We did not want to travel into the city as return home at night could lead to us being arrested by Police officers instructed to crackdown on our community.

“Our condo has been raided twice and we are praying that we are not subjected to further arrests, especially as the other condos targeted in recent weeks are only metres away from our own.  

“Children enjoyed receiving their gifts and making a churnee reminded them of our saviours visit to earth, his time as an asylum seeker and refugee and the hope he gives us all. 

“Families were relived to gain the food rations that will help them through the tough December period but please pray that we are soon resettled in another country, as we are all living so desperately.”

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the BPCA, said:

“These brave Christians held a service on their roof knowing full well that any Thai citizen could report the disturbance leading to their arrest. However, their passion for God and their desire to inspire their young with the customs and practices that bring them closer to God, led to a request for help with organizing a church service.

“Events such as the Berlin attack and the Gulshan Park bomb attack, remind us that extremists are targeting the Christian faith which as the largest faith in the world has become there main priority for attacks. So services like these will become more an more frequent as the church will be forced to go underground if nothing is done to stem the hatred.

“Countries such as Thailand that refuse to acknowledge the persecution of Pakistani Christians and choose to re-persecute through fear of the unknown are unwittingly playing into the hands of extremists.  Making the lives of persecuted Christians in their nations untenable and pushing many towards depression and suicidal tendency.

“BPCA is doing what little it can to help, but at this time of Christmas that traditionally spreads a message of hope across the globe, we realize that some of that glimmer has been lost. Christians in the West simply must remember their duty to hep the oppressed – their silence only allows the wicked in the world to continue unabated.”

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