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"Nancy," an Iranian convert to Christ, is facing deportation from Canada on April 24 after failing to convince an Immigration and Refugee Board judge that she is a Christian. This is despite clear testimony from both her and her pastor. Wanting to protect her family in Iran, Nancy has asked that her real name not be published.

In 1999 Nancy was introduced to Christ by a friend in Tehran and converted to Christianity in the summer of 2000. When her husband was questioned about her church attendance, Nancy fled to Montreal to live with her sister-in-law. While there, she attended a Pentecostal church where she was baptized. She later became an active member of the Ascension Lutheran Church in Montreal. Those who know her confirm that she has a genuine Christian faith.

The immigration judge, Hélène Panagakos, repeatedly admitted in her ruling that she was not familiar with Protestant Christianity. This did not stop her, however, from judging Nancy's Protestant beliefs. When Nancy was unable to name more than two Christian sacraments and did not use the term "holy communion" for the receiving of bread and wine, Panagakos rejected her claim that she had become a Christian. It is worth noting that Protestants typically do not believe in more than two sacraments and frequently do not use the terminology "sacrament" and "holy communion." Panagakos claimed that Nancy obviously lacked knowledge of "the most basic Christian concepts." Canadian officials have further decided that, even if she is a Christian, she does not face a significant risk of persecution in Iran.

As in much of the Muslim world, however, Iranian Muslims who convert from Islam to another religion are considered apostates. The penalty for apostasy in Iran is severe, often death. Nancy's family in Iran is already under surveillance by the authorities. For up-to-date information on the mistreatment of Christians and other religious minorities in Iran, see the International Religious Freedom Report for 2002 submitted to the US Congress by the State Department at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2002/13995.htm. Iran is still considered a country of particular concern by The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (see http://www.uscirf.gov/crptPages/CPC-Iran.php3).

According to the National Post, Immigration Canada has said there is little chance of the deportation order for April 24 being overturned. In an interview, Nancy said, "My life is not with the officer, it is in God's hands. I still have hope. I have been afflicted, but I am not despairing. I have been persecuted, but I am not forgotten."

Pray that the deportation order will be overturned. Pray that Nancy will continue to find her strength in Christ. We encourage Canadians to write to their local members of Parliament as well as the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Denis Coderre. Contact information is available through our links page.

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