Monday, 3 September 2007, 9:23 am – LAWFUEL – Legal Newswire – Anglican Archbishop David Moxon emerged from a prison visit to Ali Panah this morning declaring he is fully persuaded of the genuineness of the Iranian asylum seeker’s Christian faith.
Archbishop Moxon, and the Anglican Church’s Social Justice Commissioner, The Rev Dr Anthony Dancer, met with Ali Panah for almost one hour this morning in Auckland Central Remand Prison, where he has been held for more than 18 months.
Ali Panah has been fasting for 52 days, in a last ditch bid to avoid deportation to Iran – where he will be in grave risk on account of his Christian conversion.
Archbishop Moxon and Dr Dancer found Ali weak and wheelchair-bound – and they are concerned that his health will deteriorate rapidly, as he told them this morning he is now refusing any mineral supplements.
But they also found him lucid and calm – and Ali told them that as his body wasted away, his spirit and faith in God grew stronger.
Archbishop Moxon and Dr Dancer said that for much of their time together, Ali talked about his faith. After their visit the Archbishop and Dr Dancer told gathered reporters that their visit simply confirmed for them reports from Ali’s Vicar, fellow parishioners, workmates and employer that he is “a brother in Christ”.
And the Archbishop and Dr Dancer gave their commitment to Ali that they would continue to work on his behalf on a political level.
Meanwhile, a small group of Anglicans who met outside the prison this morning have announced plans to stage a regular, peaceful prayer vigil on Ali’s behalf outside the prison each evening between 5pm and 6pm.
They say all Christians, of every denomination, are welcome to join them.
NB: Attached, please find a joint statement from Archbishop Moxon and Dr Dancer in which they reflect further on their visit to Ali Panah.
For immediate release September 2, 2007
Some further reflections on our visit to Ali Panah…
It was good to see our brother in Christ, Ali Panah. Ali is a good man, loved by many around him in his adopted home of Auckland.
We are grateful to the prison authorities for making our visit to Ali possible, and for the way they appear to be caring for him.
Doubt has been cast by some in authority on whether Ali Panah is a bona fide Christian. However, the secular State is in no position to judge the genuineness of a person’s conversion to Christianity.
It is, however, quite reasonable to expect our Government to take seriously the risks a Christian convert living in New Zealand may face if it deports that person to countries such as Iran.
We are gravely concerned about this. The number of people executed by the Iranian State each year is thought to be second only to China.
The Bible instructs Christians that we should not hide our faith, and that we should be willing to share it with others.
Since his conversion (which happened before he sought refuge in New Zealand) Ali has been obedient to Christ’s command. His former boss, his workmates, his Vicar and his fellow parishioners testify that he has sought to share his faith whenever possible. We are now clearer than ever, therefore, that his return to Iran, at this time, would be unsafe for him.
We have sent messages to the Minister of Immigration for some weeks now, seeking the opportunity to discuss Ali’s plight with him. We’ve also created an online petition on Ali’s behalf, and this has received widespread support.
We understand that the Minister has been out of the country for some of that time, and we don’t believe there is a lack of concern about Ali Panah’s case. However, we do urge the Minister to exercise the power which has been given to him to determine Ali’s fate with mercy, compassion and generosity. We are willing to help the Government, in whatever way we can, to do this.
We also encourage people to make their support for Ali known to the Government, and to take the opportunity to sign our online petition to the Minister.
The Most Reverend David Moxon, Archbishop
The Rev’d Dr Anthony Dancer, Social Justice Commissioner