An Anglican minister who fled Iran six years ago because of constant harassment by intelligence agents and multiple arrests, has been granted his freedom as the US approved an emergency request to relocate the Iranian pastor and his family from Turkey, where they have been living in fear of being returned to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Pastor Hekmat Salimi, 72 and his wife Shariati, 66, and their daughter Sama, 35, cried tears of joy as their plane prepared to take off from Istanbul where the family have been living as asylum-seekers east of Istanbul since 2016. However, after suffering a debilitating stroke last year, the family were told by Turkish officials in February of this year that they had to leave the country or face forcible deportation. Since then, the family had been living in hiding, moving from safe house to safe house and fearing deportation over the past nine months.
Iranian advocacy group Article 18 notified Anglican church officials with the Anglican Office for Government and International Affairs which immediately began the process of working with the family and the US State Department to arrange for the family to be paroled to the United States.
Late Friday evening, the family took a sigh of relief and their first steps towards freedom and they left the plane at Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport. The family was met by a leaders of the Anglican Church in North America including Archbishop Foley Beach, Primate of the Anglican Church in North America, Bishop Derek Jones, Bishop of the Jurisdiction of the Armed Forces and Chaplaincy, Canon Justin Murff, Executive Director of the Anglican Office for Government & International Affairs, and Canon Timothy Ullman, Rector of St. George Anglican Church in Auburn, Alabama, which will be the host church for the family for the next year.
Rev. Salimi is one of a growing number of Iranian Christians who have been relentlessly persecuted in Iran for their faith. Christian’s from Muslim backgrounds are often charged with harsh apostasy laws for converting to Christianity from Islam. “We are so thankful that in the Unites States, the First Amendment protects the free exercise of religion. Our Constitution protects families like the Salimi’s and guarantees religious freedom.” Said Rev. Canon Justin Murff. Executive Director of the Anglican Office for Government & International Affairs.