As Christians worldwide mark World Refugee Day on Sunday to honor the courage and perseverance of millions of refugees who've fled their home countries to seek safety and a better life elsewhere, one woman shared her harrowing story of persecution with The Christian Post.
Martha, a Pakistani Christian, was forced to flee her home with her family who moved from city to city to escape being found and killed. Living in constant fear, they made the difficult decision to leave their country only to be imprisoned in a foreign nation before finding refuge in the United States.
“Refugees are made in God’s image,” Desiree Lueckhof, executive director of Peace of Thread, an organization that helps refugee women, told CP. “They’re just like you and me, but unfortunately, they’ve gone through hard things that are really unimaginable for us in America. But we have the opportunity to love them and be their friend and walk alongside them as they resettle here,” Lueckhof added.
World Refugee Day, which is celebrated every year on June 20, recognizes the anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
Martha’s son, a Chrisitan, had fallen in love with and married a woman from a Muslim family in Pakistan. Her family and the Muslim community did not accept their marriage, especially after she became pregnant.
This put the family’s lives in danger and forced them to escape.
Martha and her family fled from city to city in Pakistan, attempting to escape those trying to kill them due to the Christian-Muslim marriage they disapproved of.
Pakistan is ranked the fifth-worst country in the world for Christian persecution due to Islamic extremist oppression, according to Open Doors USA’s 2021 World Watch List, and is the second-most dangerous country in Asia for Christians.
The U.S. State Department recognizes Pakistan as a "country of particular concern" for tolerating or engaging in egregious violations of religious freedom.
After they arrived in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital city, they then decided to flee to Thailand.
With no money, no identification card and a language barrier, Martha, her husband and her son were arrested and jailed in Thailand, which was a “very scary” time for their family. Their other children did not see them for the entire year they were imprisoned.
After that ordeal, Martha, her husband and youngest daughter were granted refugee status in the U.S. in 2014, one week after her son and daughter-in-law arrived with the help of the U.N.
Despite their challenges, Martha believes God was with her family every step of the way, and said God gave her dreams to warn her to leave the city.
Martha misses her home country but gives “thanks to God” for the freedom she has now.
She and her family are now active in church and are integrating into their new community in the U.S.
Martha said she finds encouragement in the Bible because it never “departs from her,” as she meditates on it “day and night,” she added.
Once Martha and her family arrived in the U.S. as refugees, legal immigrants, she became involved with Peace of Thread, which has helped her to assimilate in her new country.
Peace of Thread is an organization with a mission to “empower, employ, and advocate for women in vulnerable populations” through providing resources and job opportunities.
A nonprofit organization based in Clarkston, Georgia, Peace of Thread enables women like Martha to work from home as artisans producing quality purses, bags and accessories using recycled materials. This provides them with the skills necessary to eventually find another job.
Martha, who made clothes while living in Pakistan, now makes handbags for Peace of Thread and is able to work from home and stay with her family.
The Peace of Thread artisans have access to counseling, free medical care, free ESL classes, job training, educational workshops and community during their often difficult transition.
President Joe Biden recently raised the refugee admissions cap to 62,500 for the fiscal year, which Peace of Thread said gives American Christians an opportunity to welcome refugees into their communities.
Biden announced he would eventually raise the refugee cap to 125,000 for the first fiscal year of his administration.
Emily Wood is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org