This article is a continuation of Refugees in Thailand: Real people with real lives
To understand the real situation of Christian refugees, let’s first take a look at some of the data used for our research:
- Pakistani Christian Population in Thailand: about 3000 people
- Research sample: 50 families, representing about 250 people.
- Passport Status: In average 65% of those that were interviewed have their passport expired.
- Average Income per capita per month: 620 bahts (US$17).
- Level of employment: all of the interviewed families had at least one person that had an informal occupation in Thailand.
- Children in School: None of the children in school age are registered in local schools.
- Reason for migration: 100% of the interviewed fled to Thailand looking for the resettlement UN program.
The refugee situation can be summarized in two words: fear and desolation. Because of the current situation in Thailand, families have had to hide at home, with very little social interaction and surviving mainly on donations of non-profits or churches, or spending their last savings, that was originally set aside to help them restart their lives once they had resettled.
Virtually all of the families are currently living in 170 square feet rooms with no furniture. Generally, these dormitories have a small hallway with access to a bathroom. These hallways are used as the kitchen.
Due to the high temperatures in Bangkok, poor nutrition and high stress is a widespread scenario amongst the adult population.
Children and teenagers have access to Thai public schools, however, they end up not going to class because their parents don’t feel safe in taking them to school and being approached by the local police and taken into custody. Another factor that discourages these families is the lack of perspective for a long-term establishment in Thailand. Many families are unable to see the language learning process as something of worth.
The interviewed families have been in Thailand for an average of 4 years waiting to be resettled. Because of this, many have said that they have run out of financial resources that were kept aside for emergency which turns their situation even more vulnerable. However, through some active Christian organizations, whenever an extreme need have been rise have been met.
Another big issue is the renewal of the Pakistani Passport. Unfortunately because of persecution against Christians at the Pakistani embassy in Bangkok no refugee is able to renew their passport. Employees of the embassy have informed them that they are only able to go through the renewal process if it is started from within Pakistan.
What is the role of UNHCR?
UNHCR is the destination of every asylum seeker as soon as they arrived in Thailand. Four years ago the asylum seeking process was done considerably faster – within two years refugees were accommodated in a resettlement program. Due to their initial efficiency, the number of requests leaped from 700 to 17000 in December 2015. The high demand has resulted in a long waiting time for interview scheduling. Currently, the estimated time from the first request until the settlement can last as long as two or three years.
According to local sources, there have been clear indications of religious persecution against Christians within UNHCR. In regards to the Pakistani a practical problem identified is that all of the translators provided by the local office are Muslims and therefore they end up interpreting the requests based on their personal perspectives. For instance, instead of translating “persecution” to persecution they will translate persecution as discrimination which may change completely their judgment.
What am I supposed to do about this?
We believe that the role of every Christian is to respond and follow the Words said by Jesus.
“…To love God above all things and to love our neighbor as ourselves”. – Mt 22:36-40
The love of God is extended to everyone, regardless of their origin or background. He has created all nations and cultures and loves them.
When we align ourselves with God’s love, we surpass our own personal barriers. It is easier to shut out and not engage, many times we ignore the issues in the world because they seem to be so far away. But we believe that as Christians God has given us His Living Word that is capable of changing mindsets and transforming circumstances.
In Matthew 25:35-40, there is no doubt about the level of love that we should have.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I WAS STRANGER AND YOU INVITED ME IN,
I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. (…)
It is our prayer that together we will be the Answer to our brothers and sisters in Thailand and Pakistan. There are many ways you can respond:
- Engage in prayer: Take 5 minutes to pray for those that are fleeing persecution in Pakistan, that they might find resolution in Thailand and that God would strengthen them and their families.
- Donate: your donation is a sign to those in need that you care and that they matter. It is a way to respond with our finances and make a statement to those around us.
- Share with your friends: Being constantly bombarded with bad news has numbed our ability to feel the burden of those around the world that are being persecuted for their faith. But we can make a difference and share not simply about their challenges but how so many of these refugees have kept their faith in Christ and their love for one another.