Pakistani family takes sanctuary in Winnipeg

Posted by admin on Aug 15th, 2006

Church prepares for long stay by family in sanctuary. CBC News

The pastor of a Winnipeg church said Monday she’s preparing for a lengthy stay by a Pakistani family living in sanctuary there. The Raza family — Hassan Raza, his wife Sarfraz Kausar and their six children — took refuge in the Crescent Fort Rouge United Church Aug. 3. At the time, the family was threatened with deportation after a Federal Court judge rejected their refugee claim based on the threat of religious persecution in Pakistan.

Barb Janes, pastor of Crescent Fort Rouge United Church, told CBC News that she’s asking volunteers to meet at the church Tuesday evening to plan ways to help the Razas. “We’re going to need a lot of help,” she said. “The slowness of response from [federal immigration minister Monte] Solberg’s office leads me to think this is going to be a long, protracted situation. The wider the community support we have, the better.”

Some retired teachers have offered to come to the church to teach the family’s six children, and Janes said more volunteers are needed to look after grocery shopping, laundry, and other needs.

No word from immigration minister

The family left Pakistan in 1998, and has been in Canada for the last four years. Two of their children are Canadian citizens.

Janes said she wrote a letter to the federal immigration minister on behalf of the Razas around the time they moved into her church. So far, she has received no response to their plight from Solberg, other than acknowledgement that his office received the letter.

She said she figures there has been no answer yet because it’s summer.

In the meantime, she said the family is holding up in the church, even though she said the church sometimes has to jockey for space with the family, especially during events such as weddings.,

There was a wedding at the church last weekend and three more are planned for this coming weekend.

“We are a large building that is very well-used by the community. From time to time, we’ve had to say to this family, ‘I’m sorry. Could you all just go to your room and shut the door for a little while?’ so that our church life can continue as per normal,” Janes said.

She added the kids were shy and withdrawn when they first arrived at the church, but are now having fun exploring the building.

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