Whatever you call the Islamic State, ISIL, IS, or ISIS, everyone can agree that they commit horrible atrocities and brutal terroristic acts in multiple countries across the Middle East and North Africa. Their beheadings of Western and Asian Journalists on video were bad enough. Then they burned a Jordanian pilot alive as if we were still living in the middle ages. But their most recent despicable horror captured on video in an effort to scare the West and recruit more murderers was the torture and throat-slitting of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians kidnapped in Libya.
Anyone who has seen or heard of this horrid tale should be appalled that these innocent men were clearly targeted, tortured and killed because of their Christian faith. Thankfully, Pope Francis spoke out to decry these despicable acts of religious persecution and torture. However, it is clear that no one of Christian faith is safe in any country in the Middle East or Northern Africa.
The United States has very strong immigration laws that prevent anyone from being deported to a country where they will be tortured or killed. In many circumstances, the U.S. will grant religious refugees lawful immigration status in the United States and even provide them with lawful permanent residence. Christians living in the Middle East and North Africa and more importantly, Christians in the United States who are from countries in the Middle East and North Africa have a very strong claim that if they return to their home countries they will be harmed, persecuted, tortured or killed because of their religion.
When I worked for the Government, I handled many Asylum cases involving Egyptian citizens who were Coptic Christians and had already suffered persecution, harm or torture in Egypt because of their faith. These atrocities took place when the oppressive and relatively protective Mubarak government was in place in Egypt. It is true that when Gaddafi was in power in Libya, Mubarak in Egypt and Bashar Al-Assad had control in Syria, Christians had much more security and safety than they do now. However, those days are gone and Christians across the region face unspeakable acts of persecution and torture at the hands of radicals and Islamists who seek to harm them solely for their religion.
For those of you who are not familiar with who the Coptic Christians are, here is an informative article about this ancient group of Christians:
If you are in the United States and are not a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, you are Christian and you are from a country in the Middle East or North Africa where Christians face persecution, harm, kidnapping, torture or murder you may be eligible for one of many immigration benefits that will allow you to stay in the United States legally.
John Gihon is an immigration and criminal defense attorney with the law offices of Shorstein, Lasnteski & Gihon. If you are afraid to return to your home country because of your religion beliefs, call us today to see if you are eligible for asylum, withholding of removal, or protection under the Convention Against Torture.