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N.J. Church Offers 2 Men Wanted For Deportation Sanctuary, Vows To Fight

Pastor: Christian Men Could Be Harmed If Forced To Go Back To Indonesia
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Wangko and Tinisela

Rovani Wangko, right, and Saul Tinisela. (Photo: CBS 2)

HIGHLAND PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A church is helping two men from Indonesia defy the law. Rather than be deported by immigration authorities, the two men are being offered sanctuary by a pastor is taking a step back in history.

The two men are Rovani Wangko and Saul Tinisela. The action they’ve taken dates back centuries.

“Indonesia is no good for Christian,” Wangko told CBS 2’s John Slattery on Thursday.

“Possibly, they threat me, finally they gonna finish my life. Get killed,” Tinisela added.

Both men, many years ago, overstayed tourist visas, missed deadlines for applying for asylum and submitted to GPS ankle monitors, but were told to report for deportation during the past month.

“By staying here, they are saying, ‘No, I don’t want to go’ and we as a church are blessing their decision,” said Rev. Seth Koper-Dale of the Reformed Church of Highland Park.

The 36-year-old pastor is offering sanctuary because he said if they returned to Indonesia and its Muslim majority, they would, as Christians, face violence. Wangko said he came to the United States because he was beaten on a public bus.

Around the Highland Park church, there are signs of support for the two men. Harold Ort, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said: “As a matter of policy, Immigration and Customs Enforcement does not conduct enforcement actions at sensitive locations, including places of worship, without prior approval from headquarters.”

“They don’t come into churches or schools as a rule. They could,” Rev. Koper-Dale said.

The two men are not hiding. Immigration officials know where they are. The church is taking a stand, hoping some sort of relief can be granted.

The pastor said, in the past month, he knows of three Indonesians deported from central New Jersey.

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