An Iranian teenager has been granted asylum by South Korea as he now can live safely as he fled persecution in his own country. This Iranian teenager converted to Christianity in his country and has found refugee status in South Korea; where more than a quarter of total population professes to be Christians.
In 2010, Antonio-the Iranian Christian convert came to South Korea with his father who is a businessman as they were concerned for their safety. He was 7 when he arrived in South Korea. In 2012, he embraced Roman Catholicism and later in 2015 his father followed suit. Their conversions incensed their relatives back in Iran-where apostasy by a Muslim can be punished by death.
Antonio and his father had sought religious asylum however, South Korea grants religious asylum to only a little fraction of applicants. Since 2000 only people have been granted refugee status by South Korea so far. Further simplifying, mere 3.5% of the asylum applications received a green signal.
Before acceptance of his asylum application, Antonio received huge support from South Koreans, as they launched a petition urging their government to grant him asylum as he likely faced deportation. This petition was lunched on the presidential website, and Antonio was declared as a sincere believer.
As he applied for the asylum, his supporters said this chance was “like a ray of hope from heaven”. They raised the slogan:”Could South Korea not embrace this one single soul?” Eventually, more than 30,000 people signed the petition. Remarkably, when Antonio went to the immigration office around 50 students accompanied him as a gesture of support. The students staged a sit-in for hours demanding that Antonio should be granted asylum. Majority of these protesters wore surgical masks.
“People threw all kinds of slurs and insults at us and our parents online, and some of us were a bit scared,” Choi Hyun-joon one of Antonio’s classmates said. Choi was among the students who staged a protest. While critics called these students “brainwashed” and “crazy.”