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The ‘parabola’ that saved a refugee

ICC Note:

A Chinese refugee and former member of an underground church in the country narrowly escaped being sent back into persecution over a ‘parabola.’

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1/21/2008 China, Canada (National Post) Eight years ago, Pin Xian Xin says she was quietly introduced to an underground Christian church in the suburbs of Guangzhou, a sprawling city in the bustling Pearl River Delta on the southern coast of China.

The cousin who invited her to the clandestine church, held in the home of another member, warned her against telling others because of the dim view the government held of those attending unregistered churches.

Despite the danger, she says she enjoyed the church and started attending regularly. Six months after her first visit she was baptized.

Now 32 and living near Toronto, Ms. Xin’s experiences at the underground church and the legitimacy of her religious beliefs were the focus of a court challenge after the Immigration and Refugee Board ruled Ms. Xin could not be a Christian — partly because she did not know what a “parabola” is.

Justice Leonard Mandamin of the Federal Court of Canada assumes the IRB adjudicator really meant “parables,” and ruled: “A parabola is a mathematical curve and not a Biblical story,” he says in his decision. “The applicant cannot be faulted for the confusion.”

Judge Mandamin threw out the decision by the IRB’s Lily Oddie that Ms. Xin be returned to China.

“What is your favourite parabola?” Ms. Xin was asked by Ms. Oddie, the IRB adjudicator, according to the certified transcript of her refugee admission hearing.

“I beg your pardon?” Ms. Xin replied, through a Cantonese interpreter.

“What is your favourite parabola?” Ms. Oddie repeated. “There are parabolas in the Bible. Have you read about them?”

Ms. Xin told the IRB that her life in China became untenable after she became pregnant with a second child in 2005, contrary to China’s one-child policy, she and her husband decided to have the child.

Fearing discovery by health authorities and forced to have an abortion and be sterilized, she fled to another part of China to avoid mandatory checks on her intrauterine birth control device, she said.

A relative arranged for a snakehead to smuggle her out of the country. Once in Canada she made a refugee claim, saying she feared persecution in China because of her membership in an underground church and for breaching China’s one-child policy.

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