Special Report and photos by Esther Das
Thursday 21, 2017: The British Parliament: December 19th, 2017 was a day, marked to celebrate Christmas as well as the contributions of Pakistan Christian Community to uplift the people of Pakistan generally and the Christian Community in Pakistan particularly by the All Parties Parliamentary Group for the Pakistani Minorities.
The event was chaired by the AAPG Chair MP Jim Shannon and facilitated by the APPG Gen. Secretary Councillor Morris Johns. The Rt. Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, Lord Alton, The Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Lord Ahmed of Wimbledon, the minister in teh Foreign and Commonwealth office (Chief Guest) and many other dignitaries graced the event with their presence.
The meeting opened with a minute’s silent prayer for the martyrs of Quetta and concluded with a suggestion by Mr Morris John to post a Christmas Card to Asia Bibi to render a message of solidarity, encouragement and Christian love.
Sixteen individuals were awarded the certificate of appreciation:
Mr Mike Wakely's name has become synonymous with the Starfish Asia project that has been supporting education with Christian Values for the last many years. A fruit of 8000 Pakistani Children being educated from low-income families is yielded so far. The work involves curriculum development, teacher training and provision of resources on a partnership base. At the moment Starfish Asia is providing 150 scholarships to students in Pakistan. Mike was at the top of the award list, followed by many who had been active for the same cause in different battlefields.
Wilson Chowdhury is a British born Pakistani , chairperson of British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), formed after the Gojra Christian Colony was set ablaze in 2009. Since then BPCA has been highlighting the issues of Pakistani Christian community unfailingly and has been instrumental in encouraging and helping oppressed and persecuted Pakistani Christians through financial, media publicity and legal resources, especially the Pakistani Christian asylum seekers in Thailand.
Dr. Peter David has played a leading role in reclaiming the nationalized Christian educational institutions from the Govt. of Pakistan. The Foreman Christian College (FC College) is hugely supported by him and he’s striving to reclaim Murray College Sialkot and Gordon College Rawalpindi as well restore the UCH Lahore. Thanks to his efforts and those of others that FC College is now a fully recognized charted university.
Professor Anjum James Paul was greatly missed as he was not present to receive his certificate acknowledging his relentless efforts to exclude hate material from the curriculum of Punjab Text Book Board’s books. His efforts have recently yielded some positive changes in the Punjab Board’s Primary textbooks. Moreover, topics of Human Rights, Peace, Tolerance and Peaceful Coexistence have been introduced.
Rev. Noble Samuel, an ex army Chaplain who is well informed and active politically, spiritually and through media resources, to highlight, support and prevent issues that the Pakistani Christian Community faces in the wake of religious intolerance.
Asif Mall, Chair Pakistan Minorities Rights Organization (PMRO) and had been very effective in community uplifting and spreading awareness regarding the plight of Pakistani religious minorities through his media appearances and social media campaigns, as well as hosting a regular TV Show on Zindagi TV.
The Journalists were appreciated for their media presence and campaigning through print and digital media. Among them are: Mr Samson Javed and Kaleem Dean for their print media presence in Urdu and English , respectively. Mr John Bosco who has been hosting a weekly show at the Gateway TV to high-light and resolve the issues the community faces.
The political activism was recognized through the efforts of Councillor. James Shera, who has been awarded an MBE by the British Govt. and the Star of Pakistan by the Pakistani Govt., Mr. Edgar Money, chair of CLAAS, providing legal help to plethora of people for several years and Mr Micheal Massey, who has worked tirelessly to encourage Paksitani Christians to participate in the British politics.
Among others are Noshab Khiljee, a successful businessman who have trained Young Pakistani Christian Entrepreneurs in property business, Mr.Qamar Rafiq a young rising star, who has worked tirelessly with Dr. Peter to protect the properties of Church of Scotland in Pakistan from the land mafia. Mr. Qamar Shams, Chair International Christian Council (ICC), Bishop Nadeem Bhinder, head of 200 pastoral teams and supervisor for 60 churches as well as a few economic development projects for the unprivileged in Pakistan’s rural areas.
These sixteen eminent personalities, each, received a certificate of appreciation, however, this list is not exhaustive, nor does this article cover the spectrum of all the contribution made by each one of these. There still are many unsung heroes who work with these people to realize the mutual dream of the abundant life. For instance, the achievements wouldn't’ have been possible without the support of these people’s wives and families. I would strongly urge the APPG to include the life-partners if high achievers hereafter. It is good to begin the charity at home !