Arthur and Silfia have sought Sanctuary at the Reformed Church of Highland Park in NJ, giving up their jobs and personal freedom, rather than be deported to Indonesia. They are defying an ICE order for deportation and their action comes at a great sacrifice: This July, Silfia's father and brother passed away and she could not attend their funerals in Indonesia because the couple are so terrified of religious persecution in their homeland.
Despite many struggles, Arthur Jemmy and Silfia Tobing built a good life in Edison, NJ, much of it centered around their church family at the Presbyterian Church of Metuchen.
"We love to work for the church," says Arthur. "Especially we help organize the annual rummage sale and all the events around Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year." They worked hard and paid taxes. Arthur worked in factory warehouses, as a forklift operator and also managed the computerized shipment of goods via UPS, Fedex and USPS.
Before they entered Sanctuary, when they took a vacation, Arthur and Jemmy liked to visit Silfia's family in Pennsylvania, in York and Philadelphia. They are pictured above with Silfia's nieces Aaliyah and Nadia Tobing at Easter this year.
But ICE has PRIORITIZED deporting Christian Indonesians, deporting 9 from our Central NJ community since January 1, 2012. Watch a film about their situation at http://brokenasylumfilm.com
Though Arthur and Silfia have petitioned the U.S. government for asylum for a decade, since Arthur first complied with special registration (NSEERS), their request was denied because they missed the 1-year deadline for applications. Now ICE has denied their request for prosecutorial discretion even though they meet multiple factors in John Morton's June 17, 2011 memo promising to re-focus ICE on deporting criminals and they refuse to return to Indonesia where violent mobs have destroyed 1,700 churches since 1995 and persecution persists to this day.
"In Indonesia I worked as a Sunday School teacher," explains Silfia. "And I led church services as a song leader." Everyone there must carry an ID card which identifies each person's religion. "When I went to look for a job and the company saw Christian religion, it became impossible to work outside the church." Arthur and Silfia each knew family members and friends who became victims of violent persecution.
In Arthur's words: "In my hometown of Poso there is a village not too far from where we lived where we heard from our bothers at the time that the priest who brought the word of God in the church and suddenly church doors open and they all look towards the door open to hear gunshots. The priest fell with blood and died on the spot. And immediately the shooter left the church, so at the same time we were in our church and our pastor decided to close because the situation in the whole area that we live so very troubled by the shooting. Everyone was in fear of the shooting.
"After this incident my parents told me to move to Jakarta but then we also heard that in Jakarta there is shooting and burning churches as well. Since it was well known that my religion is Christian, my family feared I will be killed as well, so i decided to leave Indonesia to come to America seeking a safer life and to help my parents."
SIGN THIS PETITION and help thousands of Christian Indonesians across the U.S. whose families are being torn apart. Like Arthur they registered for NSEERS and applied for asylum to help the U.S. fight terrorism post-9/11. They have become entrapped in an immigration system whose quota of 400,000 deportations per year in the last three years leaves scant room for humanitarian concerns.
Arthur and Silfia's faith that God will find a way where there seems to be no way has inspired our small community in Central New Jersey to advocate and work tirelessly for them and Christian Indonesians across the country. A big job for our small group! We need your help. Learn more at http://keepfamiliestogether.com
Along with 11 members of the U.S. Congress, including Carolyn Maloney and Yvette Clarke from NY and Frank Pallone and Rush Holt from NJ, we urge ICE to stay deportations for this couple and Indonesian families while a bill our Pastor Seth Kaper-Dale helped write, the Indonesian Refugee Family Protection Act is being considered in both Houses. Senator Frank Lautenberg introduced S-3339, while Ms. Maloney and Mr. Pallone introduced HR-3590, now supported by 18 Representatives. It allows Indonesians who fled from 1997-2003 a chance to file for asylum without the 1-year deadline that has kept their cases from being heard.
US HOUSE OF REPS. Colleagues urge ICE to prevent Indonesian Christian Refugees from being deported back to a life of persecution in their homeland. http://maloney.house.gov/press-release/rep-maloney-joins-house-colleagues-urging-ice-prevent-indonesian-christian-regugees
THE NEW YORK TIMES A Sanctuary Amid Fears of Persecution at Home. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/17/nyregion/reformed-church-gives-sanctuary-to-indonesians-ordered-to-be-deported.html
THE STAR LEDGER NJ Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes introduced a state resolution to enact HR-3590 http://www.mycentraljersey.com/article/20120511/NJNEWS/305110070/Assemblyman-visits-Indonesian-immigrants-Highland-ParkHUFFINGTON POST NY Rep. Carolyn Maloney, visited the immigrants and said, "They fled violence, they fled the burning and the raids of their religious sanctuaries. I think it's just the fair and just thing to allow them their day in court."http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/06/indonesian-immigrants-pastor-congress-church_n_1409248.html
WASHINGTON POST Minister sees no choice but to fight for refugees. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/minister-sees-no-choice-but-to-fight-for-refugees/2012/04/05/gIQAbJmrxS_story.html
THE NEW REPUBLIC Broken Promises: How Obama's Immigration Failures Have Put A New Jersey Community On Edge http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/101307/immigration-indonesians-new-jersey
CHRISTIAN POST Indonesian Christians Facing Deportation in US Appeal to Obama http://www.christianpost.com/news/indonesian-christians-facing-deportation-in-us-appeal-to-obama-69540/