Seventy-four year old Fredisminda Menorca, the mother of Lowell Menorca, 41, a former unordained minister-turned opponent of the INC's leadership, fled the Philippines and now she has been granted refugee status in Canada. The Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) ruled she is a "person in need of protection" from her former church, the Iglesia ni Cristo (the Church of Christ). After arriving in Canada, Menorca suffered a stroke that affected her speech and left her partially paralyzed.
The Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) claims to be the one true church and the restoration of the original church founded by Jesus, and that all other Christian churches are apostates. The Iglesia Ni Cristo is now the third largest religious organization in the Philippines after Catholicism and Islam.
The IRB panel found Fredisminda Robosa Menorca faces "a risk to her life or … [a risk] of cruel and unusual treatment and punishment" from the Iglesia Ni Cristo church should she return.
"The claimant is afraid that if she returns to the Philippines she will be persecuted and mistreated by the church administration and their members, especially fanatical religious followers," noted the board decision. The panel found the church has "the motivation and the capacity to harm her as a way of controlling or punishing her son." “(Fredisminda Menorca) alleges that police authorities, including high-ranking officers, are controlled by the church," the immigration panel wrote.
At the beginning of the year, Lowell Menorca is ruled “in need of protection” and granted refugee status in Canada. Menorca had claimed that members of the INC abducted him, attempted to kill him and threatened the life of his young daughter.
When a photo was found on the windshield of his vehicle with a red "X" through the face of his daughter, he put his family into hiding in Asia — and flew to Canada to apply for refugee status. His wife and two children remain in Asia, unable to join him, until he's granted permanent residency and can bring them to Canada.
In its analysis of Menorca's evidence, the Immigration panel found "members of the INC have previously detained the claimant unlawfully and did attempt to have [Menorca] killed" in the Philippines. To back up his claim, the IRB also noted Menorca had provided Philippine news articles "establishing a number of former INC members who had spoken out against the INC have been murdered," CBC reports.
The INC did not respond to repeated requests for official reaction to the decision, but Paquito Ibañez, a Vancouver-based minister with the church, told CBC News, "We don't know why they decided and we don't care."
Photo Credit: Wikimedia