May 19, 2022

Old Lyme Church Holds Interfaith Service Today to Call Attention to Pakistani Family Living in Sanctuary

Malik Nayeed bin Rehman and Zahida Altaf and their daughter.

The First Congregational Church of Old Lyme (FCCOL) will hold an Interfaith Service on Sunday, June 24, at 10 a.m., to celebrate the many friendships the congregation has established with people of other faiths through its sanctuary work; and call attention to the plight of Malik bin Rehman, his wife Zahida and their daughter Roniya, who continue to live in sanctuary at the church, awaiting a stay of deportation. 

The entire community is invited to attend.

In announcing the service, FCCOL Senior Minister Steve Jungkeit said, “We’ll share the service with our Muslim brothers and sisters, particularly those whose country of origin is Pakistan, listening to holy texts from the Bible and the Quran.  We’ll share prayers and music together, and bless our neighbors – Malik, Zahida and Roniya – as they continue to sojourn with us, even as we sojourn with them.”

The family was offered sanctuary earlier this year to help give the appeals process a chance to work and provide immigration authorities with an opportunity to recognize the injustices and flaws of the law as it is being applied in this case.  Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart, the New Britain City Council, the New Britain Democratic Town Committee and numerous human rights organizations are included among the groups and individuals who have asked federal authorities to grant this family a stay of deportation.

The couple came to the U.S. legally in 2000 on non-immigrant visas according to federal authorities, but stayed past their visas’ expiration dates.  The couple tried for years to extend their visas and become U.S. citizens, but were misled by an immigration attorney who was later jailed for swindling other clients. 

Jungkeit said, “We believe that with time and reason and compassion, the family can receive the full, fair hearing and consideration they deserve – that justice will prevail and they will be allowed to remain in the U.S. with their five-year-old daughter Roniya who is a U.S. citizen. Deporting the parents would needlessly tear the family apart.”

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