In Bureaucracy’s Grip
We received the message from Michael and Rosemary D’Souza on August 29. They had seen Mullah Mohammad Danish walking in the alley next to their home. They texted us a photo of Danish from behind, an ominous specter of what otherwise appeared to be the back of an anonymous man.
Danish’s presence in their neighborhood on the outskirts of Karachi, Pakistan, was alarming for two reasons. First, because Danish, a member of the Islamic extremist group Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), had been aggressively persecuting the D’Souzas, a devout Catholic family, since 2005. Second, because Michael had moved his family 17 kilometers away from their home where their interactions with Danish first began.
Michael and Rosemary, afraid for their lives, begged me and my wife yet again to help get them and their three children out of Pakistan as quickly as possible. As before, our hands were tied — despite the fact that we had enlisted the assistance of a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) that helps persecuted religious minorities around the world and had formally submitted details of Michael’s own persecution to a U.S. congressional subcommittee. We had even secured the support of a conscientious congressman, Christopher Smith of New Jersey, thanks to the efforts of a loyal NOR reader. Nevertheless, Michael and his family remain stranded in a nation that Open Doors USA, a nonprofit organization that tracks religious persecution, ranks as the world’s fifth most dangerous for religious minorities. Only now the family is also at the mercy of the U.S. governmental bureaucracy — the same one that frustrates the citizens of the country in which the D’Souzas seek refuge. God help them.
For those unfamiliar with the D’Souzas’ story, which I began recounting in the pages of the NOR in 2016 — most recently, “Learning the Meaning of Longsuffering” (Jan.-Feb.) — here’s the quick-and-dirty version. The TTP began hounding Michael, a native of Karachi, shortly after his father died. They demanded that he and his family convert to Islam. Michael refused, and he paid for his unassailable devotion to Christ and His Church with harassment, threats, and physical assaults.
Michael put up with this for seven years before deciding to flee with his family to Bangkok, Thailand, where I met him in 2014. Unfortunately, while there, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) denied his request for refugee status and his subsequent appeal. This was likely because an interpreter, an Urdu-speaking Muslim, altered their testimony. The D’Souzas’ asylum-seeker papers soon expired, meaning they were living illegally in Thailand. They turned themselves in and spent about ten months in a filthy, corrupt Thai detention center. Eventually, upon their request, friends and family raised enough money to fly them back to Pakistan in August 2017.
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Our friends are being squeezed by the vise of Islamic extremism and by the incomprehensible, inescapable grip of U.S. federal bureaucracy.