USA (MNN) — Recently, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested several Indonesian Christians in New Jersey and took more to court, saying the believers have overstayed their visas.
However, Bethany Christian Services’ Chris Palusky shares, “We’ve been following in the news and what we understand is there was a deal with the previous administration with those refugees in the states allowing them to stay while their case was being heard. We’ve heard that’s being overturned or at least going to courts right now.”
After coming to America, some of these believers were unaware that they needed to apply for an asylum visa within one year of their arrival. WNYC News reports that under the Obama Administration, a deal was struck so Indonesian Christians could live freely if they met with the ICE on an annual basis and were not involved in crimes or other offenses.
But after President Trump signed an executive order last year, that has changed and it seems the deal has been brought to an end.
The order mandates ICE to detain those suspected of immigration violations, regardless of their criminal history. This is what led up to the arrest of the Indonesian Christians and the court case.
Around 50 believers are being affected right now, many of whom have been in the states for decades, have built up lives, been married, and now have children.
The case of these Christians was heard in February and for now, the judges have blocked their deportation. However, follow-up hearings will be this month, and if the people are deported they could face problems in their home country.
Many of these believers have fled Indonesia because of the religious persecution they saw or faced in the Muslim majority nation.
“In a place like Indonesia, which is the largest Muslim country in the world…it’s a large majority of Islamic groups and the Islamic leadership. So, Christians are a minority in Indonesia. And in many cases of Indonesia – it’s a big country – they face persecution,” Palusky says.
WNYC News says that Arthur Jemmy, one of the Indonesian believers who is being affected, left Indonesia twenty years ago after seeing a preacher beheaded by a Muslim mob.
Persecution of Christians continues today. Just last month, an Islamic extremist attacked a Church in Java, Indonesia.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has stated that the country is religiously free, but it is still #38 on the Open Doors World Watch List – eight places higher than it was last year.
What Bethany is Doing
Bethany helps resettle refugees who have faced persecution like this as they come to America.
“Usually we try to partner with churches. So, when we resettle refugee families, we work with a church partner and we try to have them linked up so they’re able to welcome them to the United States, help them to find appropriate housing, which we also do, and get them signed up for school, proper clothing, and then really build a partnership and a friendship,” Palusky says.
A number of these Indonesian believers have sought refuge in their churches so they wouldn’t be detained or deported. In this way, they have found a home and created deep friendships.
Bethany encourages you to reach out to refugees in the United States.
“Become involved. I think right now in the United States, we’re a bit fearful of what refugees are and what we have are preconceptions,” Palusky says. “But they’re usually women and children displaced by war and they’re the most vulnerable. So please find out about refugees, get to know a refugee, and get involved with refugees. It’s a great opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ.”
Pray these believers will be allowed to stay in the country. Pray for hope to stay intact no matter what the future holds.