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Church Activists Call for Halt to Indonesian Deportations

Church Activists Call for Halt to Indonesian Deportations

Published: January 25, 2012

With Rev. Maren Tirabassi of the Union Congregational Church looking on, Rev. Harold Michael Lapian of the Indonesian Christian Reformed Fellowship in Dover explains to Senator Shaheen's staff about the persecution of Christians in certain areas of Indonesia.  

Photo: AFSC / Arnie Alpert

The threatened deportation of 37 Indonesian immigrants brought a delegation of New Hampshire clergy and lay activists to the Manchester offices of Senator Jeanne Shaheen and the federal immigration enforcement agency January 24 to call for the deportations to be cancelled.

As Hans Risakotta explained to five members of the Senator’s staff, thousands of Indonesian Christians fled from violent persecution in 1999.  “Most of our people are afraid to go back to Indonesia,” he said.   However, more than a hundred Indonesians, who have made their home in the Dover area for years, have had their applications for asylum rejected and now face deportation to an unsafe homeland.

Thirty-seven of them are currently scheduled to be deported in February. 

“It is hard to see my friends have to leave this country when it is so dangerous for them at home,” said the Rev. Sandra Pontoh of Maranatha Indonesian United Church of Christ in Madbury.

Rev. Pontoh was joined by nine other pastors at the meeting with the Senator’s staff.  Fourteen others, including members of three churches and staff from the American Friends Service Committee and the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, joined them for a spirited discussion.   

Eva Castillo, a longtime advocate for immigrants’ rights, told the Senator’s staff that halting the deportations would be consistent with President Obama’s stated policy, which is to focus on deporting only people with a criminal history.  

Arnie Alpert of the AFSC asked for the Senator’s support for legislation that would create a new opportunity for Indonesians who fear persecution to have an extended time period for asylum applications.  H.R. 3590, the Indonesian Family Refugee Protection Act, has recently been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.  

Following the meeting at the Senator’s office, 11 members of the group delivered letters on behalf of each of the 37 Indonesians to staff of the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement office in Manchester.  “The situation for Indonesian Christians is especially dangerous,” the petition stated.  “Reports of violence and negative treatment are well-documented and the dangers remain a very real threat.  These individuals are likely to be severely at risk if they were to return to Indonesia.”

 “It is due to these very real dangers that we appeal this decision, and for humanitarian reasons request that these individuals be granted a Stay of Deportation,“ the petitioners stated.

Click here to read a Feburary 2 article in Fosters Daily Democrat.

Click here to read a February 1, 2012 story about the Indonesian Community from the NH Union Leader.

Click here to view a February 1, 2012 story about the Indonesian community on WMUR featuring interviews with Revs. Pontoh and Lapian.