Monday 13th March 2017 is a day Naeem will never forget, the day of his final appeal before the Tribunal in Feltham. Losing would mean return to Afghanistan. Tom, Dave Maclure, Mary Manthey-Steele and I were all character witnesses.
Naeem had joined the PCC for our recent half day together. He told us how his mother arranged his escape from Afghanistan 12 years ago. His father had gone missing, scenes of death were all around, living conditions were treacherous. He said the BBC and other networks never really broadcast the truth of what takes place in Afghanistan.
He has not seen his family since and does not know where his mother is. He didn’t want to leave, but he would have been killed if he didn’t. Like many asylum seekers, he would prefer to be in his homeland with his family – but home isn’t safe. He made this point in his evidence. The tribunal had to determine whether Naeem had become a genuine Christian, and if it so found, Naeem would be a refugee and so be granted asylum.
He was visibly upset giving his evidence, but responded to probing questions about his Christian faith. Dave testified about his attending St John’s since Jan 2015, his deep interest in Christ and his baptism in July 2015. He spoke of his getting to know the bible, his questioning of anything he didn’t understand and of his help at Flight Path and TSPH. Tom told how he has helped with gardening and other odd jobs around St Johns and St Mary’s!
Thankfully the tribunal agreed Naeem was indeed a genuine Christian which made him a refugee. His barrister said it’s unusual for clergy and church members to offer such support. There was not a dry eye amongst us when the verdict was given. Naeem would remain in the U.K!