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Church minister and family who fled Islamic extremists become British citizens

by Press Association
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A minister and his family who fled Pakistan for Scotland as asylum seekers after receiving threats against their lives have become British citizens.

Raheel Arif, now a Church of Scotland minister at Denny Old Parish Church, said changing nationality after nine years means "freedom… and equal rights".

He believes he and his family have been blessed with their new status.

    The minister, his wife Humaira, their son Rhea and daughter Roshaan fled Peshawar, Pakistan, in September 2011 after Islamic extremists threatened their lives because of their Christian faith.

Conspirators at the secondary school where Mr Arif was vice-principal, and the only Christian in a staff of 52, tried to have him arrested for blasphemy.

The minister, who was ordained in November last year, said: "We were living a good life in Peshawar.

"We had a nice home and my wife and I both had good jobs, but extremists kept threatening us.

"It was a terrifying, horrible situation and I was very scared.

"At first the threats were only directed at me and I thought things would calm down in time.

"But when people came to my house and threatened my family I knew that we had to leave.

"For me, to be a British citizen is freedom from immigration restrictions and having equal rights.

"It took nine years to reach this point but it was grace that blessed us with our new nationality.

"I am so proud to be a British citizen and looking forward to serving my lord and community as one of them."

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