New Denny minister was threatened by extremists

Raheel Arif is being inducted into Denny Old Parish Church after he escaped the clutches of Islamic extremists in Pakistan
Raheel Arif is being inducted into Denny Old Parish Church after he escaped the clutches of Islamic extremists in Pakistan

A former asylum seeker who escaped the clutches of Islamic extremists has today become a Church of Scotland minister.

Raheel Arif is being inducted into Denny Old Parish Church as its first full-time spiritual leader in five-and-a-half years.

The 47-year-old is excited about taking up a “wonderful and priceless ministry” in Falkirk district.

Mr Arif and wife Humaira (40) and their children, Roshaan (10) and Rhea (16), fled to Scotland from Pakistan in September 2011 after extremists threatened their lives because of their faith.

At the time he was the vice-principal of a high school in Peshawar and the only Christian. Jealousy and suspicion was rife and Mr Arif said a plot was mounted against him and his conspirators tried to have him arrested for blasphemy.

A complaint led to his demotion to his previous role as a biology teacher and his enemies then turned their attention to his family. Mr Arif took his wife and children to Grangemouth to visit his cousin, Rev Aftab Gohar, minister of Abbotsgrange Parish Church, Grangemouth, to lie low until things got back to normal. However, after two months in Peshawar it became clear his enemies would not leave his family in peace forcing the Arifs to return to Scotland to seek asylum.

Mr Arif, who grew up in a Christian family, has a Bachelor’s degree in education and carried out a 15-month probation at Zetland Parish Church in Grangemouth.

Mr Arif said: “I have been on an amazing journey and my ordination is affirmation for God’s plan for my life. Since the time I preached as sole nominee, I, along with my family, have been overwhelmed by the welcome and love.”