When Cara and Paul met, he shared with her how he had come to flee Cameroon and seek asylum in the United States. She shared his story with us (Read Part 1 of their story here) to explain the kinds of horrors people experience in their home countries that cause them to flee. “His story is also a testament to our system working,” Cara said. “Here is a person who was in such great need and our country welcomed him.”
This is their story in her words:
According to the American Immigration Council, asylum is “a protection granted to foreign nationals already in the United States or arriving at the border who meet the international law definition of a ‘refugee.’”
Additionally, the United Nations 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol describes a refugee as a person who is unable or unwilling to return to their home country and cannot be protected in that country due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”
Cameroon’s deplorable human rights record combined with Paul’s testimony, evidence, and witness statements proved a relatively quick process in granting him asylum. Despite his athletic outer appearance, his whole body was covered in scars from the torture: cigarette burns on his head and neck, and marks where wires were used as a whip across his back. His genitalia had been electrocuted and some of his toenails had been extracted. Many cases are not as favorable or take years to process, often culminating in expulsion to the asylum seeker’s country of origin.
Paul and I married 15 months after he shared his asylum story with me at the coffee shop. The thing about Paul was that he was such a positive, encouraging person. I loved that about him. When it would be so easy to harbor resentment, Paul would quote scripture, refusing to let any “root of bitterness” (Hebrews 12:14-15) take hold of his life despite his asylum experience. This faith was tested once again when he was diagnosed with aggressive non-Hodgkins lymphoma weeks before his 35th birthday. After a month in a metro-Atlanta hospital, I kissed his forehead and watched him take his last breath.
Since Paul’s passing, I have also grieved as my late husband’s beloved country has exploded into civil war. This war is commonly called the “Anglophone Crisis.” It has displaced nearly two million people. Thousands of civilians have been murdered, villages and schools torched, and the police and military daily perpetrate human rights violations. In 2022, the United Nations estimates that 3.9 million Cameroonians will need humanitarian aid. Some are calling the situation “the next Rwanda-type catastrophe.” Thousands have fled to the Mexican border to seek asylum. Hundreds have been expelled back to Cameroon, where punishment like Paul experienced is likely to occur to anyone who speaks out against the government.
I find hope and peace when I pray about complex topics like immigration, temporary protected status, and asylum. But ultimately, there is much to be done, and everyone can join in. Christ’s example of love in action shows us that we are to love those who are different and unknown, even if it radically challenges our cultural norms.
So, what can we do?
Please join us in praying for asylum seekers, like Paul and like the thousands showing up at our borders looking for a a refuge. You can join a prayer group in your time zone (or choose a time that works for you) and pray together with other Women of Welcome on July 26, 2022 with a focus on praying for asylum seekers. If you are reading this after July, don’t worry. Our prayer groups meet every month and you can jump in to pray any time! Head over now to sign up for a group and let’s pray!