Published: 00:00 GMT Standard Time - Wednesday 25 November 2009
New Zealand: Claim of Conversion to Christianity Distrusted by Secular Authorities
Country/Region: NEW ZEALAND
Ali Panah, 42, a convert from Islam to Christianity, asked for asylum in New Zealand. He claimed that he could not safely return to his native Iran because he would be treated as an apostate which, in Iran, includes the possibility of a death sentence.
Ali had a baptism certificate, and the Archbishop of New Zealand, David Moxon, after meeting him, wholeheartedly confirmed that he was indeed a Christian, but the immigration authorities were reluctant to accept that his conversion was genuine. Only after three appeals and a 53-day fast was Ali granted asylum in New Zealand, but not even then because the authorities were satisfied that he really was a Christian. Instead they said that the case had created so much publicity that the Iranian authorities would inevitably know about it and about “his claims to renounce Islam”, so that in itself might put him in danger if he were to return.
So the case sets no useful precedent and gives no assurance to Christians who have converted from Islam that in New Zealand they can escape the persecution they suffer at home, even if senior New Zealand Christians affirm the genuineness of their conversion. As for Ali Panah himself, it may be that once the authorities believe his case has been forgotten in Iran, they will send him back.