BY Peter Diamond | March 22 2019 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


‘Save us from fatwa death sentence’

Glasgow parish rallies round Catholic family who face threat of deportation to Pakistan

A Catholic family living as refugees in Glasgow face being deported to Pakistan despite having fled from the country after a fatwa was issued calling for them to be killed.

Lorina Dallas, her husband Wilson and two children Liam, 9, and Candice, 6, fled Karachi, Pakistan in December 2017 after Lorina was accused of insulting the Islamic faith — something she says is ‘completely false.’

The family had been given temporary shelter in the UK since they arrived in 2017, but the Home Office has now rejected their initial asylum claim, throwing their safety into jeopardy.

This week the Dallas family has received support from the Archbishop of Glasgow who has written to the Home Secretary pleading their case.

Since arriving in Glasgow in January 2018, the Dallas’ have become well-loved parishioners at St Aloysius’ Church in Springburn, where Liam will make his First Communion later this year.

Fr John McGrath, parish priest, has this week handed a parish petition to the family’s immigration lawyer calling on the government to grant them asylum.

“This is a couple seeking refuge in a place of safety and fundamental human rights. Losing their appeal recently has been a huge setback for the family who had got their confidence back,” Fr McGrath said.

“My prayer is that decency will prevail and they will be granted full asylum. They are very giving people and have thrown themselves into volunteering in the parish and community. They have really taken to our culture.”


Death threat

Lorina, 31, said a fatwa was issued against her in 2017. She said she was visiting her brother when she saw a wedding taking place in his street. She approached with her daughter as she wanted to view the bride’s dress.

She was invited inside by one of the guests and briefly entered before a group of women began asking questions about who she was and why she would not convert to Islam.

Lorina replied, ‘Jesus is my saviour and I don’t need to convert.’

It was at this point she began to feel unsafe and quickly left.

A Fatwa, a religious decision made by a local Islamic scholar, was subsequently issued against Lorina calling for her to be ‘dispatched to Hell.’

She was later held up at gunpoint, with the attacker scared off by a taxi driver, though not before stealing her identification.

Days later the family fled Pakistan and arrived in the UK.

They were initially placed in Govan before being relocated to Sighthill, living on just £151 per week.

However, the UK Home Office recently rejected the Dallas family’s application for asylum and two weeks ago their appeal was also rejected, leaving them anxious for their future.

Lorina, who was due to attend her sister’s wedding days before she fled, said: “My brother is still living in Karachi and I am in contact with him regularly but he has been attacked twice since I left.

“In June last year a group of men beat him to the extent he lost teeth. We ask for help in this country but we are not worried about ourselves, our sole concern is our children.

“We don’t think the Home Office have submitted our proofs to the judge for our original application and it is because of this that we remain hopeful.”

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow Archdiocese said: “The rejection of the family’s asylum appeal has been devastating. They are confused and perplexed at the decision, and, with good reason, quite terrified.

“I am dismayed that the British Government would even consider sending a young family back to such danger.”

The MP for Springburn Paul Sweeney has given the family his support.

“We are looking to support a fresh claim of asylum in April or May with a letter of support from myself,” he said.

“What this case has shown is that there is a significant lack of compassion from the Home Office when dealing with cases of religious persecution, which is a wider issue that needs to be treated.

“Anyone with a Christian conscience has to speak out against this kind of mistreatment.

“Sadly I have had to deal with a family who were in the asylum process for 18 years but thankfully, through good work we eventually helped them win that case, so there is hope for the Dallas family.

“Local parishes and churches working together provide great support to these people practically and spiritually.

“The Church has a powerful role to play and it appears to be [giving] increasingly necessary support that I’m sure people are grateful for.”

Pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) helps Christians who are facing persecution across the world and have offered prayers for the Dallas family.

ACN’s John Newton said: “It is outrageous, when Mrs Dallas has been threatened at gun point following demands that she abandon her Catholic Faith, that the authorities are apparently not taking her case seriously.

“In Scotland her family are able to practice their faith freely — but no doubt if she returns to Pakistan there will be renewed calls for her to convert to Islam.

“In the UK we must take seriously the rights of persecuted believers to religious freedom.

“As a charity we will be keeping the family in our prayers every day when we gather to pray the noon-day Angelus.”


Trust in God

Wilson Dallas, 38 said: “We are close to God every day and He has worked in our lives and we place all our trust and hope in Him. Although we are alone and far from our families He has a plan for us. But we already have a family here in St Aloysius’ — they have given us so much support.”

Last week the family’s torment was raised at the Scottish Parliament by Springburn MSP Bob Doris.

During First Minister’s Questions, Mr Doris, a parishioner at St Aloysius’ Church, said: “I very much hope the Home Office will look again at the family’s case.

“There are serious concerns about how the Pakistani police treat the Christian community and I will be raising this and other matters relating to the Dallas family’s case direct with the Home Office.

“I also want to make the wider point: this is not about Christianity, Islam or any one faith, it’s about religious freedoms and the right to practice your faith without threat, fear, persecution or attack.

“For that compelling reason the Dallas family should be allowed to build a new life for themselves here in Scotland.”

In response to Mr Doris’ question, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “I strongly condemn any persecution of peoples from minority communities. Nobody should ever feel at risk because of their Faith or belief. If there is any assistance we can offer to the Dallas family then we would be happy to discuss that.”

Immigration issues however are reserved to the UK Government.

The Dallas family’s immigration lawyer Darius Katani said: “We are in the process of obtaining fresh evidence to show that the Wilson family are at risk on return to Pakistan due to their religious beliefs.

“We hope to obtain a new expert report to comment directly on the issues raised by the Home Office and the judge of the first tier tribunal.

“We are confident that the new evidence creates a realistic prospect of success and the Wilson family will be granted the protection they require.”

Asked about the family’s case, a Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection.

“Where a decision has been made that a person does not require international protection removal is only enforced when we and the courts conclude that it is safe to do so, with a safe route of return.”

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