Apr 6, 2012
Press Release

Highland Park, New Jersey - Today on Good Friday, U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) visited with Indonesian Christians who came to America to escape severe religious persecution, and who are fighting a deportation order by seeking sanctuary at the Reformed Church of Highland Park in central New Jersey. She was scheduled to be joined on the visit by her House colleague, Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ).

Along with her colleague Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Congresswoman Maloney has written and introduced a measure, the Indonesian Family Refugee Protection Act (H.R. 3590), that would allow the Indonesian Christians, who fled religious persecution in their native land, to re-submit asylum claims if they were initially rejected on procedural grounds.

“The United States has long sought to protect refugees fleeing persecution. These individuals came to this country seeking relief from extreme violence and persecution for their religious beliefs, and deserve a chance at asylum,” Congresswoman Maloney said. “It is our hope that through Congressional action, Immigration & Customs Enforcement officials will stay deportation proceedings.”

Pastor Seth Kaper-Dale of the Reformed Church of Highland Park, which is offering sanctuary the Indonesian Christians, said: “The Indonesian community will only be safe when there are legislative changes at the federal level, and we're grateful that Representatives Maloney and Pallone have taken the lead on making that happen.” Pastor Kaper-Dale had initially brokered an unusual agreement with immigration authorities, allowing the Indonesians to legally stay and work in the U.S., but giving the authorities the right to rescind that permission at any moment. In February of this year, the AP reported that many Indonesian Christian refugees had been sent deportation warning letters.

Between 1996 and 2003, when most of the refugees arrived in the U.S., over 1,000 churches were bombed, razed and otherwise destroyed by extremists seeking to persecute Christians, many of Chinese descent, from Indonesia. Despite some years of relative calm, the persecution has once again escalated, resulting in strong statements regarding violence against religious and ethnic minorities from the U.S. Department of State, the United Nations, and Human Rights Watch, all published within the past year.