Archbishop Mario Conti has this afternoon faxed an urgent appeal to the Home Secretary asking that the deportation of Mr and Mrs Masih Raymond planned for this evening be halted.
The couple * Pakistani Christians * fear they will be subject to persecution and torture if they are forced to return, and are currently taking refuge in the Parish House of St Patrick's Church in Anderston, Glasgow.
Parish Priest, Fr Gerry Nugent, has offered them his own quarters and assured them that he and the parish community will offer them shelter and support until the threat of extradition is lifted.
Fr Nugent said: "I have known Christine and Masih for nearly two years. I have spent many an hour with this gentle couple and I have listened to their dreadful story. Because of the horror that they have faced I have tried to offer them support in their trauma.
"They came to my home seeking sanctuary. They are terrified, isolated and abandoned and they pleaded with me for a place of safety. With my heart and soul I have no choice but to offer them a place of protection.
"I am not making any political point. I am a simple parish priest, and when people in need come to my door I cannot turn them away."
Christine & Masih Raymond, the couple involved, said
"As Christians we have no choice but to take sanctuary in St Patrick's
Church. Going back to be persecuted, tortured or even murdered in Pakistan
is not an option."
Archbishop Conti has offered his full support to Fr Nugent's stance.
He said: "I salute Fr Nugent's principled stand and I support him and the Raymond family in their plight. I have spoken to the local MP and asked him to intervene and am writing to the Home Secretary as a matter of extreme urgency to have this dreadful decision overturned.
"It is morally unjustifiable to return people to a country where they have already been persecuted and are very likely to face further persecution. I am satisfied from internal Church communications and from well-publicised reports that despite Home Office assurances, some Christians in Pakistan have been subjected to arrest and persecution. This couple has already been subject to violence and harassment.
"To refuse them refuge after two and a half years of peaceful living in this country is outrageous and I fully support Fr Nugent's action.
"I will offer the Raymond family the full support of the Archdiocese in their plight and I would ask those involved in their deportation to refrain from any attempt to violate Church property in an attempt to remove them."
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