Church continues efforts to bring Pakistani family to the Cowichan

Church continues efforts to bring Pakistani family to the Cowichan

But immigration process may still take up to two years

It still may take up to two years for members of Mill Bay Baptist Fellowship Church to bring a Christian Pakistani family to the Valley from Thailand.

After spending several weeks in Thailand in January and February as part of ongoing efforts to bring the five-member Javed family to Canada, pastor Norm Sowden said the church is still waiting for Immigration Canada to process the family’s immigration papers.


Sowden said he and Charles Lukas, a church member who accompanied him on the trip, tried to visit the Canadian embassy in Bangkok in an effort to expedite the process, but were turned away and told they must contact the embassy in Singapore with their concerns.

“They wouldn’t even let us upstairs in the embassy where the offices were,” he said.

“There are currently thousands of people in Thailand fleeing persecution in neighbouring countries. What we need is for the Canadian government to begin treating these people like citizens of Syria about five years ago who were fleeing from the war in their country and shorten the immigration process from several years to just three to five months.”

The Javed family was forced to flee their native Pakistan because they hid pastor Sarfraz Sagar, the religious leader at that country’s Lighthouse Pentecostal Church, which they attended, in their home due to fear for his life from Muslim militants.

The pastor was able to flee to Thailand before being captured by the group, but when Azhar Javed, the family’s father, became aware that he and his family had also been targeted by the militant group for hiding Sagar, the family fled to Thailand as well, as refugees, before they were captured.

But their visitor’s visa eventually expired and Azhar had been detained by Thai authorities for more than two years in Bangkok’s decrepit and overcrowded Immigration Detention Centre before being sent to another centre outside the capital, while his family continues to hide to avoid extradition back to Pakistan.


“The family’s situation is increasingly desperate,” Sowden said.

“The children can’t go to school, or a hospital if they are sick, and have to stay in most of the time for fear of getting picked up by the authorities and incarcerated themselves. The mother, Aysia, who is a nurse, spends all her time cleaning houses for money for food and rent. She’s under a lot of pressure.”

As for the father, Azhar, Sowden said that while he’s living in squalid conditions while in detention, he still manages to lead bible studies and prayer times at the centre.

“We were only allowed to talk to him just a few times at the facility while we were there,” he said.

“I was touched when he told us not to worry about him, just to keep helping his family and pray the immigration papers will be processed soon and the family can come to the Valley.”

Sowden said now that’s he’s back home, he’ll continue his efforts to have the family’s immigration papers expedited by the Canadian government, and he is scheduling a meeting with Alistair MacGregor, MP for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, to discuss the issue, and encourages other people to contact their MPs as well.


Sowden also spent some time in a hospital in Koh Samui, Thailand, after contracting a strain of the H1N1 flu virus, the most common flu virus that circulates each year.

He said he was “incredibly happy and thrilled” with the medical personnel at the facility.

“I have only good things to say about the quality of medical care I received while there,” Sowden said.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter


Just Posted

Island Health’s new Wellness and Recovery Centre at 5878 York Rd. is now planned to be open in the fall. (File photo)
Wellness and Recovery Centre now to open in the fall

Three community dialogues scheduled for May

B.C. Centre for Disease Control data showing new cases by local health area for the week of May 2-8. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island COVID-19 local case counts the lowest they’ve been all year

On some areas of Island, more than 60 per cent of adults have received a vaccine dose

A nurse gets a swab ready to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Island’s daily COVID-19 case count drops below 10 for just the second time in 2021

Province reports 8 new COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island Wednesday

Before you take on a pet, make sure you want to have it for life. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Editorial: A pet is a lifetime commitment

Tons of people are getting pets during the pandemic, some for the first time

Over 60 Indigenous youth from Qualicum to Malahat are participating in the Step Up Work Placement Program. (Submitted photo)
New Mid-Island Indigenous youth work placement program seeks employer partners

So far, more than 60 youth from Qualicum Beach to the Malahat are participating in the program

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

Canada’s demo Hornet soars over the Strait of Georgia near Comox. The F-18 demo team is returning to the Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Sgt. Robert Bottrill/DND
F-18 flight demo team returning to Vancouver Island for spring training

The team will be in the Comox Valley area from May 16 to 24

Saanich police and a coroner investigated a fatal crash in the 5200-block of West Saanich Road on Feb. 4, 2021. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Police determine speed, impairment not factors in fatal Greater Victoria crash

Driver who died veered across centre line into oncoming traffic for unknown reason, police say

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Bow-legged bear returns to Ladysmith, has an appointment with the vet

Brown Drive Park closed as conservation officers search for her after she returned from relocation

Brian Peach rescues ducklings from a storm drain in Smithers May 12. (Lauren L’Orsa video screen shot)
VIDEO: Smithers neighbours rescue ducklings from storm drain

Momma and babies made it safely back to the creek that runs behind Turner Way

Signage for ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, is shown in Victoria, B.C., on February 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
$150 refunds issued to eligible customers following ICBC’s switch to ‘enhanced care’

Savings amassed from the insurance policy change will lead to one-time rebates for close to 4 million customers

Island Health: two doctors, new clinic space to avert Port McNeill health crisis

Island Health has leased space to use as an immediate clinic location to avert health crisis

Police investigate a fatal 2011 shooting in a strip mall across from Central City Shopping Centre, which was deemed a gang hit. The Mayor’s Gang Task Force zeroed in on ways to reduce gang involvement and activity. (File photo)
COVID-19 could be a cause in public nature of B.C. gang violence: expert

Martin Bouchard says the pandemic has changed people’s routines and they aren’t getting out of their homes often, which could play a role in the brazen nature of shootings

Most Read