A BIOLOGY-teacher-turned-minister and his family have been awarded their UK citizenship nine years after seeking safety in Scotland.

The Arif family – dad Raheel, mum Humaira and children Rhea and Roshaan – fled Pakistan nine years ago after Islamic extremists threatened their lives over their Christian faith.

Conspirators at the Peshawar secondary school where Raheel was vice-principal tried to have him arrested for blasphemy.

The four had visited family in Scotland before, and claimed asylum here in 2011 when it became clear they would no longer be safe from persecutors in Pakistan.

Raheel was ordained as a Church of Scotland minister in November and now, five months on, the whole family has secured British citizenship.

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The minister, of Denny Old Parish Church, near Falkirk, said: “For me to be a British citizen is freedom from immigration restrictions and having equal rights.

“It took nine years to reach this point, but it was grace that blessed us with our new nationality.”

Raheel – a graduate of Highland Theological College in Dingwall – was the only Christian out of a staff of 52 at the school where he worked in Pakistan.

He was demoted following a vexatious complaint and his persecutors then turned their attention to his family.

The family travelled to Grangemouth to visit Raheel’s cousin Rev Aftab Gohar, minister of Abbotsgrange Parish Church, in the summer of 2011 and planned to wait there until things at home settled down.

But when they returned to Peshawar two months later, it became clear that his persecutors would never leave them in peace, so they decided to return to Scotland and seek asylum.

Raheel said: “It was a terrifying, horrible situation and I was very scared.

“At first the threats were only directed at me and I thought things would calm down in time.

“But when people came to my house and threatened my family I knew that we had to leave.”

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