Indian Catholic News

New Zealand denies refugee status to Indian evangelist

The man, an evangelist in his 40s identified only as BD, was arrested and imprisoned in 2012 for overstaying his visa.


The High Court at Auckland has thrown out an Indian Christian's claim for refugee status on religious grounds. He will be deported from New Zealand despite claiming Hindu extremists in his homeland were threatening to kill him.

The man, an evangelist in his 40s identified only as BD, was arrested and imprisoned in 2012 for overstaying his visa.

He has been fighting his deportation order on humanitarian grounds ever since. His first claim for refugee status was rejected by the Immigration and Protection Tribunal in 2015.

However, he made a subsequent claim on the basis that a stint in jail had strengthened his Christian faith so much that the preaching he would be compelled to do when back in India would put his life in danger.

That has been rejected in the High Court at Auckland.

In a decision released this week, Justice Peters said the man had initially been rejected as a refugee because his risk of danger would be low if he returned to India, but noted Indian police's "sometimes lacklustre" response to hostility against Christians, who make up 2.3 per cent of the country's population.

But the man's lawyer said a "rising tide of Hindu extremism" under India's government, coupled with his client's intensified will to convert heathens, meant circumstances had changed enough for the High Court to reconsider his entitlement to refugee status.

Justice Peters acknowledged the situation for Christians in India had "deteriorated" under the new government, which was elected in 2014, but not since the man's initial bid for refugee status was rejected a year ago.

He also noted "whether or not [the man's] faith has intensified" did not increase his risk of attack, because he was already a well-known evangeliser.

The latter judgement stemmed from the fact that BD had already "completed many years of work as a religious worker and undertaken paid work as an evangelist in India".

BD had claimed that his brother, back in India, had received telephone calls from Hindu extremists threatening the man in question's life - but Justice Peters dismissed those claims.
Evidence of similar calls were deemed "not true" by the Immigration and Protection Tribunal earlier, undermining the latest batch's credibility.

The man's lawyer cited the Indian right-wing Hindu nationalist organisation Vishva Hindu Parishad as a threat for Christians, like his client, in India.

Ilamgo Krishna Moorthy, the president of the New Zealand Hindu Temple Association, said "a lot of evangelists" visited India regularly and the man would not be stopped."Ask him not to convert anybody when he gets back though," he said. "Then life is easy for everybody."

Source: Stuff

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