Skip to comments.New start a blessing for immigrant who fled persecution
Posted on 12/25/2004 10:38:06 PM PST by miltonim
New start a blessing for immigrant who fled persecution Targeted in Indonesia as a Chinese Christian, woman savors freedom
By Stuart Steers, Rocky Mountain News December 25, 2004
For Martha Chang, Christmas isn't just a holiday, it's who she is. New beginnings, strangers bearing gifts from afar and miracles have all marked her life since she fled religious and ethnic persecution in Indonesia.
Today Chang runs a restaurant in Centennial where she is trying to earn enough money to bring her four children here. She believes Denver is a place where her family can make a new start, living openly as Christians and ethnic Chinese without fear.
"In Indonesia they were killing Chinese, and they burned a church," said Chang. "In this country I can change things for the next generation."
Chang, 39, was born in Indonesia to Chinese parents.
The Chinese minority has been violently persecuted there; in 1998 there were anti-Chinese riots and 300 ethnic Chinese were murdered. The country was in political and financial chaos and many chose to blame the Chinese, who have become known for their business success in Indonesia.
"The Chinese were the scapegoats," said Chang. "I remember my sister called me and said, 'Watch TV, they're burning Chinatown.' "
Until recently, Chinese families were not allowed to use their Chinese surnames in the country. Chang was often accosted just walking down the street.
"It was scary to walk the street," she said. "They used to try to touch you and call you 'amoy,' which means prostitute. They also beat up my son."
On Christmas Eve 2000, bombers targeted 38 churches, killing 19 people.
"They started attacking the churches," said Chang. "They burned the cars of people who go to church."
To make matters worse, Chang's marriage to an Indonesian man began to disintegrate. Like most Indonesians, he was Muslim, and he started to pressure Chang to convert. But she had attended a Christian school as a girl and considered herself a Christian.
"He wanted me to wear a veil on Fridays when he went to the mosque," she said. Her husband also became angry and abusive whenever she spoke Chinese.
Chang had two cousins who had come to the United States, and her mother was encouraging her to go as well. She applied for asylum based on ethnic persecution in 2000 and arrived the next year, leaving behind her children in Jakarta but determined to make a new life here for her family.
"When I think about my life and my children, it hurts," said Chang, a tear rolling down her cheek.
The family had friends in Denver, and Chang found jobs in different restaurants.
One day after work she walked across the street to the First Presbyterian Church in Littleton. She talked to the interim pastor, Larry Grimm, and soon found herself part of a congregation that would play a large role in her life.
"She's been able to count on that congregation for emotional support," said Grimm.
The church members helped Chang settle her immigration status, writing dozens of letters to support her case. They also encouraged her to start her own restaurant.
Two months ago, Chang opened Beijing Chang in a strip mall at South University Boulevard and Arapahoe Road, where she does a brisk takeout business.
Many customers have become good friends.
"If you eat at her restaurant and come back three weeks later she'll greet you by name," said Donald Smith, who has known Chang since shortly after she came to Denver.
A slight woman who favors bright pink clothing, Chang wrings her hands as she talks about her children, ages 5, 11, 19 and 20.
After years of trying to bring them here, her oldest son, Darlest, will join her in January. The others, who have been living with her mother, are expected to come later.
Chang is certain her family will have a better life in Denver.
"You know this country can help you if you have a problem," she said. "I want a safe place where we can laugh and smile."
This article is part of a co-ordinated series in various newspapers throughout the US this weekend.
And the libs keep trying to tell us how bad America is.
Why are they still here? No one is keeping them from moving to China!
Bringing billions here with their sob stories is not the big picture, long term solution.
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