Christian leaders from around the world continue to voice their support for Sheikh Mansour Leghaei as the Australian government continues to ignore the United Nations demand to hold off on his deportation.

Dr Tony Campolo, President of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education and a world-renowned speaker and author, recently voiced his concern over the Sheikh’s case (see his comment here).  And now Father Kevin Dance, who represents the Passionist Community (of the Catholic Church) to the United Nations has written to the Australian Prime Minster in the letter reprinted below.

These men join other prominent Christian leaders world-wide, including Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and Bishop Riah of Jerusalem, in appealing for justice for Sheikh Mansour.

From the representative of the Passionist Community to the United Nations

The Hon Kevin Rudd MP
Prime Minister of Australia
Parliament House Canberra
ACT 2600

June 9, 2010

Dear Mr. Prime Minister

Re: Request to prevent the deportation of Sheikh Mansour Leghaei in accordance with the communication of the United Nations Human Rights Committee of 21 April, 2010.

I write this letter in support of the petition that Sheikh Mansour Leghaei not be deported  from Australia until the United Nations Human Rights Committee has completed its investigation of the matter.

I presently represent the worldwide Passionist community at the United Nations. Here I am involved in much interfaith cooperation in the service of peace.  Prior to this assignment, I was Parish Priest of St. Brigid’s Catholic Church in Marrickville which is adjacent to Earlwood where the Imam Husain Islamic Centre is located.

I do not know Dr. Leghaei personally, but I have confidence in the sound judgement of many within the interfaith community, including my successor Father John Pearce, who know him as a man of peace. He is committed to promoting harmony in his own community and within the wider community of Sydney.  Surely, in our multicultural society of Australia, we need people of the caliber and with the leadership that this man has shown.

He has lived at peace in Australia with his family for more than 15 years.  His application for Permanent Residence in Australia has been denied, but he has never been given a chance to clear his name as the allegations made against him by ASIO have never been made known to him. This is a denial of natural justice and of his civil and political rights.

I ask you to intervene and call for a stay in executing the deportation order on Dr. Leghaei until the Human Rights Committee makes its report. This is not a sign of weakness but, rather, a statement of the basic decency and respect for human rights that does and should represent the best that is Australian.

Yours sincerely,

Father Kevin Dance, C.P.

Sydney, June 7: Nobel peace laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu has joined an international human rights campaign condemning Australia’s decision to deport a leading Iranian cleric later this month.

Sheikh Mansour Leghaei, a moderate Shia cleric, has been living peacefully with his family in Australia for 16 years. He has never been granted permanent residency due to two adverse security assessments made against him by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) several years ago.

Contrary to the right to a fair hearing in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Australia is a signatory, Australia has never informed Dr Leghaei of the nature of the allegations against him. A leading proponent of interfaith dialogue and religious tolerance in Sydney, Dr Leghaei strenuously denies he is a threat to Australia’s national security.

“In South Africa we used to have detention without trial. In Australia you have deportation without trial,”
said Bishop Tutu.

In April the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) formally requested Australia not to deport Dr Leghaei while it considered whether his human rights had been breached. On May 17 the Australian Immigration Minister, Senator Chris Evans, ignored the UN’s request and announced that Dr Leghaei had six weeks to leave.

“The impending deportation of Sheikh Mansour Leghaei is a travesty of justice. There is no doubt at all that his human rights have been violated,” said Dr Chandra Muzaffar, a leading Malaysian political scientist, Islamic reformist and activist.

A week after Amnesty International criticized the Australian Government for putting political self-interest ahead of human rights in its treatment of asylum seekers from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, international human rights advocates have rallied behind Dr Leghaei, including:

  • Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal, retired Bishop of Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
  • Máiread Corrigan-Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
  • Dr Chandra Muzaffar
  • Professor Hans Köchler, president of the International Progress Organization.
  • Dr Norman Finkelstein, American political scientist.
  • Bishop Desmond Tutu

Helen Signy +61 425 202 654
Father Dave Smith +61 409 620 009
Ben Saul +61 424 365 146

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