The message below went out to Standing on the Side of Love supporters on Thursday, December 22, 2011. You can sign-up for these emails here.
My name is Seth Kaper-Dale. I have co-pastored a church in Highland Park, NJ with wife wife since 2001. For the past 10 years I have witnessed the tremendous suffering of Indonesian nationals in my congregation and in 7 Indonesian-speaking congregations in our area. Due to our country’s convoluted immigration system, dozens of asylum seekers are being torn from their families and sent back to dangerous circumstances in Indonesia.
In the late 1990s, large numbers of Indonesian Christians came to the United States on tourist visas to escape religious persecution by some extremists in their majority-Muslim home country. Nearly 500 Christian churches were burned between 1998 and 2004 alone. For over a decade, these asylum seekers have been living, working, and paying taxes in the United States and many have American citizen children.
Now, dozens of these refugees in New Jersey and New Hampshire have received deportation orders. Though all have legally filed for asylum, their cases were closed simply because they missed the one-year filing deadline due to a lack of understanding of the complex process. Massive deportation has already broken up over 100 Indonesian Christian refugee families and now immigration officials will separate more parents from their children and send these individuals back into harm’s way in Indonesia.
Fortunately, Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) have submitted a bill, the Indonesian Family Refugee Protection Act, which would allow the Indonesian Christians to reopen their asylum claims and grant them the opportunity to remain legally in the United States as refugees. As Rep. Maloney said, “The United States has long sought to protect refugees fleeing persecution and provide a process to fairly consider their claims. These individuals came to this country, seeking relief from extreme violence and persecution for their religious beliefs, and deserve a chance at asylum. This bill does not, in itself, grant asylum, but merely removes a procedural barrier, keeping these families from being ripped apart.”
Please click here to ask your Representative to cosponsor HR HR 3590, the Indonesian Family Refugee Protection Act. Dozens of lives are at stake.
Please keep these families together and safe by asking your representative to cosponsor HR 3590. If we are a country that values families and religious freedom, it is our duty to help this community of Indonesian Christian asylum seekers. My church cares about lots of issues–affordable housing, interfaith work, food security, green projects, LGBT initiatives…but right now there is nothing more important to us than the work of keeping these Indonesian families together in safety.
Pastor Seth Kaper-Dale
Reformed Church of Highland Park, NJ