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Anglican Archbishops ask for mercy for Ali Panah

August 17, 2007

Anglican Archbishops ask for mercy for Ali Panah –
and launch a petition on his behalf

New Zealand’s two Anglican Archbishops have asked for mercy for Ali Panah, who is now in the 35th day of a fast he began in a last-ditch bid to avoid deportation to Iran.

And the Archbishops, Brown Turei and David Moxon, have endorsed the work of Anthony Dancer, the Anglican Church’s Social Justice Commissioner, and others who are campaigning on Mr Panah’s behalf.

Ali Panah, who is Christian, and who had been a member of the Anglican parish of St James, Orakei for two years before his arrest, started his fast following the Minister of Immigration’s refusal to grant him refugee status.

He has been held in Mt Eden Prison for 18 months, having refused to sign documents that would lead to his deportation to Iran.

As a Christian, he faces grave risks if he returns to his homeland.

Earlier this week, a seriously weakened Ali Panah was taken from prison to Auckland Hospital.

According to his Vicar, The Rev Clive Sperring, who visited him in hospital yesterday, Ali Panah is now quite seriously ill. But he is determined to continue with his fast, which he believes God asked him to undertake.

“And I have no doubt whatsoever,” says Clive Sperring, “that his faith is genuine.”

The Archbishops and the Social Justice Commissioner have issued a joint statement, which follows:
Only recently there was a debate about whether New Zealand should still be defined as a Christian country.

Words are one thing. But our actions define us.

Of course, governments must act in the best interests of their citizens.

They must also act mercifully to those who come to them for help.

From time to time, situations present themselves that require careful balancing of the wellbeing of these two parties.

In such cases, the wellbeing of citizens may be the first priority – but we believe the guiding principle should always be justice. And to deliver justice also requires the exercise of mercy.

We agree with the Minister that there is a need to address the law concerning how travel documents are handled for Iranians, and we affirm him in his desire to do so.

But we also believe there is a need for the Government and its officials to take more seriously the concerns about the ongoing persecution of Christians in Iran, as documented by Amnesty International.

As things stand, we fear Mr Panah will, in the near future, either die at home in Iran – or die here in New Zealand.

We ask the Minister for Immigration to give him life.

We also encourage all New Zealanders to make their voices heard on this matter by signing an online petition at: http://justice.anglican.org.nz/action/ali-panah-petition/

Archbishop Brown Turei, Pihopa o Aotearoa Archbishop David Moxon, Bishop of Waikato The Rev Dr Anthony Dancer, Social Justice Commissioner

ENDS


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