By Kristy Perano
I thought I was good at trusting in God’s sovereignty until last January 26th, 2017. That was when I got personally involved with trying to help an Afghan refugee family marked for death by the Taliban and left behind by our country. Muhammad had faithfully served the US military in Afghanistan as an interpreter from 2003 until 2010, then worked for the UN for three years before fleeing with his wife and daughters to Pakistan to live in hiding illegally as a refugee, losing all contact with the US military in the process. Hunted by both the Taliban and the Pakistani government, he and his family are living in critical danger.
I found out about his case when he contacted a non-profit to ask for help with the appeal to his refugee case. I had the opportunity to assist him, but I soon found out I was too late. His appeal had also been denied for “discretionary security reasons” which are often trivial issues that have nothing to do with national security. (For a while the leading cause of discretionary denials for former military interpreters was that their name was misspelled on some of their documents.) With no other way to save them, my family and I decided to sponsor Muhammad and his family for what is called humanitarian parole. But our government also denied the humanitarian cases despite the strong support of a military officer.
Our government refused to even allow Muhammad’s young daughters to come live with an aunt and uncle in the US, claiming that giving a one-year visa to a two-year-old child is a security concern. My family and I are still fighting to try to re-open the cases, and dozens of Congressional offices are now supporting the effort to get the case reconsidered.
People often ask how I got so involved in trying to help someone whom I’ve never met in person. I realized soon after I heard Muhammad’s story that he was in critical danger because of his service to my country, and no one else was helping him. But Muhammad is more than a humanitarian project for me now. He’s a good friend, and he is a person of peace.
The Bible has plenty to say about helping people in need including fighting for justice for oppressed people. In fact, in the story of the Good Samaritan, the hero of the story saved someone of a different nationality who had been left for dead by his own people. Jesus said “Go and do likewise.”
In Muhammad’s case, he’s caught in the middle of animosity between Christians and Muslims. He’s not a Christian, but the Taliban accused him of converting to Christianity and turned some of his own people against him, saying that he was assisting the US military in evangelizing Muslims. Thus, many people in Afghanistan want him dead because they think he is a Christian. Many in Pakistan want him dead because he is an Afghan who worked for America. Too many Americans, I fear, don’t care if he dies because he’s a Muslim.
I do believe that God has the power to protect Muhammad now and to get his and his family’s cases approved. But I struggle to trust God’s sovereignty when the family remains in critical danger.
There is plenty of evidence of God’s protection before and after I started assisting Muhammad. The Taliban tried to assassinate him at least six times before he fled Afghanistan, including one time they tried to shoot him in the head and split his helmet in two, but he was untouched. In the last ten months, Muhammad and his family have had sixteen potentially life-threatening encounters with Pakistani police or armed robbers or life-threatening medical complications. Each time Muhammad disappeared for several hours hiding from police, he ultimately survived, but I feared the worst.
With escalating ethnic tensions and increasing police brutality in Pakistan, Muhammad and his family are in an increasingly critical situation. They are living in daily fear, and Muhammad told me recently that he is only alive because of all the Christians praying for him. So please join me in praying for God’s continued protection for the family, that Muhammad will soon be able to echo the Apostle Paul as recorded in 2 Corinthians 1:8-11:
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
Kristy Perano is a PhD student at Cornell University and a volunteer for the non-profit No One Left Behind, which advocates for US military interpreters and their families. She is also the president of the Cornell International Christian Fellowship and an active member of Bethel Grove Bible Church. For more information on how you can help advocate for Muhammad and his family, please email Kristy at firstname.lastname@example.org.