February 9, 2012
Time is running out for 95 Christian Indonesian refugees who will be deported to their home country after living and working in the Dover, New Hampshire area for almost 15 years, the New Hampshire Union Leader reports. The Indonesians originally fled to the U.S. with tourist visas, unaware of a one-year deadline to file for asylum status. After federal immigration officials rejected their most recent efforts to stay their orders of removal, the first wave of 37 men and women must leave between Feb. 10 and Feb. 29, while the remaining 58 are set to leave in November. For these Christian refugees, though, the deportation means much more than just leaving behind homes, jobs and family -- they face persecution by Muslim extremists upon their return to Muslim-majority Indonesia. "They are scared to go home because the situation in Indonesia is still not safe," said the Rev. Sandra Pontoh, pastor of a local Indonesian church. "Here they feel they can go to church every Sunday without worry about a bomb or maybe that somebody will hurt them. That is the reason they want to be here. They just want to practice their beliefs." Advocates for the refugees have met with lawmakers in an attempt to delay the deportations, while some Christian churches are looking into whether it would be possible to offer sanctuary to them.