AN OXFORDSHIRE vicar is working with a Christian barrister to Judicial Review the Government’s Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS). He believes 200 Afghan Christians on his list could be dead by the time they can even apply to come here in Spring 2023.
The Revd Paul Eddy, vicar of Stanford in the Vale in West Oxfordshire, has teamed up with International Human Right’s barrister Paul Diamond in bringing the court action after the “shambolic” withdraw of UK/Allied forces from Kabul last August. The cleric says the lack of planning left an estimated 12,000 Christians in the country needing to hide from the Taliban, constantly moving on for their safety.
Mr. Eddy, 54, said:
Before the withdrawal, Christians in Afghanistan could at least meet for worship, though conversions from Islam were never promoted. Since August 15, the Taliban has increased its campaign to identify and punish Christians, with several known to our group taken from their homes and beaten to death. Only last week I received a report and pictures of a wife, and mother, severely beaten, trying to force out of her the location of her Christian husband.
Mr. Eddy says he receives regular updates from his contacts in Afghanistan, and an Afghan pastor who has escaped to Pakistan. In the past month, Taliban action on Christians include: –
● Public transport stopped, passenger phones searched for Bible/Christian Apps (any found, the person arrested and beaten)
● Family members bribed to tell on family members converted from Islam
● Door to door searches for known Christians (those found, taken, and beaten with often no record of their existence after)
● Christian homes ransacked in search of Bibles/evidence of faith
● Christians constantly having to move for fear of being found
● Those arrested regularly beaten (often only stopped by bribing Taliban soldiers)
Despite evidence presented by the vicar and barrister to the ACRS minister, Victoria Atkins still insists Afghanistan is ‘safe’ for Christians, and they can wait till ‘phase two’ of the ACRS in 2023. This year, the international charity Open Doors voted Afghanistan the world’s most dangerous country to live in for Christians.
Mr. Eddy said:
It took HM Government six months to even publish ACRS and now, because of the media and Government focus on the Ukraine war, its impossible to get anyone to focus on the plight of Afghan Christians.
We hear of the impact of the Taliban on women and schools, and female TV presenters having to cover their faces ‘on-air’, but the plight of Christians is ignored. We have sought meetings with the ARCSs minister but were ignored. We have informed MPs, and even used the PM’s own ‘Special Envoy on Religious Rights’, Fiona Bruce, but even she had to wait two months for a meeting with the minister, and as the PM’s envoy, is in a difficult position.
I honestly believe that many of the 206 Afghan Christians on our list won’t be alive by Spring 2023 the way things are developing in Afghanistan. We are not saying all must be allowed in, only that they should be allowed to apply now, like other discriminated groups, such as the LGBTI+ community in Afghanistan.
Mr. Eddy says the application for Judicial Review of the ACRS is a ‘last step’ for justice. Mr. Diamond believes it contravenes International Law, and obligations related to children and persecuted religious groups. He expects the initial application to be denied due to the political sensitives, but that an ‘oral hearing’ to argue the case for Afghan Christians will be granted. A decision regarding the JR is expected within the next month.
Paul Diamond is carrying out the work Pro Bono. Mr. Eddy has been crowd-funding to cover court administrative costs, and accommodation for the Afghan pastor, now in Pakistan pending a visa application to the UK. For information on how to donate, and for more information, contact Mr. Eddy at firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by: Paul Eddy