Christian Converts Concerned As Netherlands Government Collapses

Monday, July 3, 2006

By Eric Leijenaar, BosNewsLife Special Correspondent reporting from the Netherlands with Stefan J. Bos at BosNewsLife News Center in Budapest

AMSTERDAM/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife) -- Dutch Queen Beatrix was weighing her options late Friday, June 30, after the center-right government collapsed over an immigration row that was expected to also impact persecuted Christian converts seeking refuge in the Netherlands.

The third collapse of a government in the Netherlands since 2002 was triggered by Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk’s threat to revoke the Dutch citizenship of Ayaan Hirsi Ali after the popular Liberal politician admitted to lying about her name, age and refugee status on her arrival in the Netherlands in 1992.

Verdonk withdrew the threat when Hirsi Ali submitted a statement saying she had not intended to lie to authorities and that her chosen name, Hirsi Ali, was valid because it was taken from her grandfather according to Somali customs.

The 36-year-old parliamentarian, a former Muslim, has been under police protection since 2004 when a militant Islamist murdered film maker Theo van Gogh. He was her collaborator on 'Submission', a film depicting the abuse of women in Islamic society, for which she wrote the script.

In a move believed to be supported by many Evangelical Christians in the Netherlands a junior coalition partner, the centrist Democrats 66 (D’66) party, demanded the resignation of Verdonk, because of her treatment of Hirsi Ali. After failing to win support for its demand, D’66 decided to leave the three-party coalition government.


Verdonk’s treatment of Hirsi Ali underscored the way she deals with refugees, including Christians who converted from Islam, Christians suggest. Compass Direct, a Christian news agency, reported Friday, June 30, that a Pakistani "blasphemy" suspect already appealed for asylum in the Netherlands in March, after allegedly facing police torture and attacks by Muslim extremists for his religious views.

A Christian, political activist and comparative religion scholar 36-year old Yasaar told friends in Pakistan that immigration officials told him it would take at least six months to process his application.

Meanwhile Hameed’s wife and two children remain in Pakistan, where their security is in jeopardy, Christians say.

Hameed has faced blasphemy charges since 1993. Under Pakistani law, blasphemy against Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, carries the death penalty. Earlier Verdonk, known locally as "Iron Rita" caused outrage by threatening to expel Iranian Christians who converted from Islam saying if they "don’t express their new faith openly, they do not have to fear danger."


Several Christian concerts have been jailed, tortured and even killed in the Islamic republic, BosNewsLife learned from several sources. Iran ranks third on the Christian rights group Open Doors' World Watch List of countries with the worst persecution of Christians

Because of Verdonk’s treatment of Christian converts seeking asylum, 94 percent of Evangelical leaders in the Netherlands demanded her resignation, according to a recent poll conducted by the influential Dutch Evangelical monthly newspaper Uitdaging (Challenge). However the main ruling Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) party of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and its ally the Liberal People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) are supporting Verdonk. They have offered to continue as a minority government till the end of the year, but several opposition parties are against that plan.

Meanwhile Evangelical leaders fear that Verdonk’s policy towards Christian converts will continue, or will get more unclear, amid the government crisis. The center-right cabinet came to power with a pledge to tackle security and immigration in the Netherlands, where 16.5 million people share an overcrowded small nation, slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey.

And Ayaan Hirsi Ali? She is leaving the Netherlands, as she accepted a job at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative policy and research organization in Washington.

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