In June, part of our communion rail offering will go to Austin Region Justice for Our Neighbors. JFON is a United Methodist-affiliated immigration ministry that provides free or low-cost legal advice and services. Austin JFON has been operating for one year, and is changing lives. Here is one story of its work.
Naomi’s Story (name changed)
Our client Naomi was born and raised in Iran as a Shia Muslim, the state religion. Throughout her childhood, she was forced to attend Muslim ceremonies at school even though she never identified as a Muslim. From an early age she was close with a family who practiced Christianity in secret, and began to believe in Christianity as she learned more about the Bible. Because converting away from Islam is punishable by death in Iran, Naomi never spoke about her beliefs; instead, she decided to come to the United States, where she could practice her religion openly. Naomi obtained a temporary student visa and began studying business at a university in the Austin area. She joined a church in Austin and started living out her faith by attending Bible studies and volunteering regularly.
Naomi was open with her family in Iran about her conversion, but she feared that the Iranian government would imprison her if she returned. When she came to our clinic in July 2014, Naomi told us, “I cannot go back to Iran; I cannot go back to pretending to be a Muslim anymore.” Julie had to work quickly to get her asylum application filed within the one-year deadline from her arrival in the U.S., which was in August 2014. It paid off: after a long review process, on March 12, 2015 Naomi’s asylum application was approved, allowing her to stay in the country without having to worry about being sent back to Iran. She continues to share her faith openly and says that to her Christianity means “being happy and thankful to God for giving you life.”