The Very Rev Mrs Brown’s boys are still waiting to be granted asylum in the UK
By Cameron Brooks
A former Kirk Moderator has criticised the UK Government for refusing to grant asylum to a Pakistani Christian family.
The Very Rev Susan Brown, who stood down from the 12 month-post today, said she has been “angered and exasperated” by the way people genuinely seeking safety were treated.
“God’s heart is big enough to hold everyone and ours needs to be too,” she told the General Assembly in Edinburgh.
Brothers Somer and Areeb Umeed Bakhsh, who are 16 and 14 respectively, and their parents, Maqsood and Parveen, fled to Glasgow in 2012 from Faisalabad in Pakistan.
Mr Bakhsh was subjected to death threats from Islamic extremists due to his Christian faith.
Mrs Brown reflected on the fact that the Home Office had already granted 11-year-old Giorgi Kakava, an asylum seeker supported by The Rev Brian Casey, of Springburn Parish Church in Glasgow, leave to remain for 30 months.
“Sadly, the government has not yet made the same compassionate offer to the family,” she said.
She added: “They are from Pakistan and Christians are under threat there. They have been in Scotland for seven years and the boys are well integrated into their school and are much loved students. The whole family are very involved in their local church and Maqsood is an elder and a commissioner to this Assembly.”
The family insist there is nowhere in Pakistan where they would be safe because they have been marked by Islamic extremists who have killed people they know.
Mrs Brown, minister of Dornoch Cathedral in the Highlands, said: “I have been to Pakistan. Admittedly, only one small corner of it, but every church we went to, there was an armed guard and any posters advertising my visit could only be put up on the day for fear of threat.
” Our government says Pakistan is a safe place for Christians. Our world is not ours, but God’s. Created for the whole of humanity. Together. God’s heart is big enough to hold everyone, ours needs to be too.”
The family’s minister, the Rev Linda Pollock, of Possilpark Parish Church in Glasgow, raised an online petition, signed by nearly 90,000 people.
It was handed over to the Home Office last August and shortly afterwards Immigration Minister Caroline Noakes told the family’s MP Paul Sweeney that the case would be reviewed. A decision has yet to be made.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon attended the General Assembly today and heard Mrs Brown’s remarks. She has indicated support for the campaign to stop the brothers from being deported.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament last September, Ms Sturgeon said: “They are an absolute credit to their parents, their school, their community and indeed they are a credit to Scotland. The Scottish Government will continue to look at what appropriate representations we can make.”