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Slough, UK: On Friday evening 13th July 2018, leaders and representatives of various local Pakistani-background Christian organizations met in the St George’s Church, Slough, to review and discuss the causes of the terrorist incident that killed 21 in the twin suicide attacks that took place in the churches of Yuhannabad, Lahore, on the 15th March 2015.  The main objective of the meeting called by Alliance of Pakistan Christian organizations (APCO) was to revisit the events, to analyse its causes and government’s response and to discuss various legal and socio-political ways of supporting the victims of that terrorist action which led to the lamentable loss of many precious lives, over one hundred injured, a huge loss of property, as well a as incalculable grief, anguish and suffering for the effected families and loved ones and, in which,  as its aftermath,  42 local Christian men ended up in jails.  Unfortunately 2 of them have already died in custody. Christian community has always condemned terrorist activity whenever, and wherever it has happened in Pakistan, and in deed anywhere around the globe, but this particular incident took place on a Sunday when the churches were packed with worshipers, and has left long, and very deep scars on the community as a whole.

Five well-established organizations participated in the event: Pakistan Christian Organization (PCO), represented by Kishan Bennett; International Christian Council (ICC), represented by Advocate Qamar Shams and Naeem Waiz; Pakistan Minorities Rights Organization (PMRO), by Asif Mall; Midlands Christian Organization (MCO), by Pastors Thomas Bhatti and Samuel Yousaf; and Pakistan Christian Press Club (PCPC) by Akhtar Injeeli. Ms Aster Khokhar served as the master of ceremonies. Other important community leaders in attendance were Mr Saleem Mattu, Roy Emmanuel, Baxter Bhatti, himself a seasoned political leader from the Sindh Province of Pakistan and others.

Various speakers emphasized their love for Pakistan and expressed their desire to see peace and prosperity to flourish in their motherland. However, the fact that unpalatable and unsocial elements, like terrorists, operate in Pakistan is a grim reality. The speakers offered their thoughts about how Christian Diaspora can help bring peace and stability in Pakistan, and how legal, financial, socio-political and moral aid can be provided to the Christian men languishing in jails as a result of the arrests which took place over three years.  None of these arrested were involved in the original terrorist activity, but were arrested due the reactions they showed at the spur of the moment, in the heat of the events which complicated matters in the immediate aftermath of the events. Their trial continues.

During the meeting references were made to the amazing success of Zerb-e Azb operation by Pak Army in their fight against terrorists. As a way forward, the speakers, from ICCI, PCPC and PMRO agreed that a multi-pronged approach is needed in which we try to find ways of providing legal and moral support to the effected members of our community in Yuhannabad.  PCPC representative highlighted the positive role that media can play in promoting peace and brotherhood in Pakistan. He  also stated that writing down events accurately and in timely fashion so that nothing is lost to the posterity is of utmost importance, and that this is the role that PCPC is trying fulfil by various journalistic activities. Members of PCPC have be engaged in column writing (Mr Samson Javed, Mrs Shamim David), TV broadcasts (Dr Peter David, Rev John Basco), Social Media activism (Prof. Emmanuel Rafael, Taskeen Khan, Naeem Waiz), and various other media activities to spread their message. Laudable mention was also made of various other NGOs working on ground in Pakistan, like Social Justice (Mr Peter Jacob), CLASS (Mr Joseph Francis) and others. In regards to keep an accurate and timely record of events, Dr Prudent Injeeli’s book, Baptized in Blood and Fire: the untold story of persecution of the Minorities in Pakistan was mentioned. This is a work of passionate patriotism but also of honest journalistic analysis.

The meeting ended with prayers for Pakistan and for all its communities and including those affected directly by terroristic activities, like Yuhannabad.

To read this article directly on the Ausaf e-news edition click: http://epaper.dailyausaf.com/page?station_id=5&date=2018-07-16&page_id=5...

To read its Urdu sister column by Samson Javed also in e-news edition click: http://epaper.dailyausaf.com/page?station_id=5&page_id=55516&date=2018-0...

Pakistani Background Christians show solidarity with the minorities of their motherland

On 25th  February 2018 Mr Samson Javed, president of Pakistan Christian Press Club (PCPC), along with his associates, including Imran Joseph, John Bosco and others, arranged an awareness dinner for the members of the  Pakistani background Christians. The evening was dedicated to appreciating the services of  Cecil Chaudhry Jr., Executive Director of National Commission for Justice and peace (NCJP) (Pakistan Catholic Bishops’’ Conference) and discussing the situation of minorities in Pakistan. Ms Ruth Cadbury (Labour) MP for Brentford and Isleworth graced the occasion as the Chief guests for the evening where Mr Rodney J. Oliver, consultant for the Oliver and Hasani Solicitors and Mr Morris Johns,  researcher and secretary for the All Parties Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Pakistani Minorities were also in attendance.

Nearly thirty members of the Pakistan Christian Diaspora gathered in a local restaurant, The Harlington Tandoori in Southall. The occasion was moderated by Mr Imran Joseph, Mr Samson  Javed and John Baso. Several attendees shared their views and concerns about the plight of the minorities in Pakistan. Mr Samson Samuel and Mr John Bosco highlighted the recent case of Patras Masih and Sajad Masih, of Shahdara Lahore, and a lively discussion followed. Patras Masih was recently booked for blasphemy on the flimsy charges of misusing his mobile phone to receive (or share, nobody seems to have bothered to get to the truth of this matter) ‘blasphemous’ messages.  Sajad Masih (Patras’s cousin) almost lost his life when he jumped from the fourth floor of a building to escape the torture and humiliation inflicted upon the pair by the police and FIA authorities.  Sajad is in a hospital struggling for his life.  The news has created a storm on the social and international media channels, but has not been reported on any of the national TV channels from Pakistan. The world of course still waits to see the justice being done to Asia Bibi, an illiterate Christian woman, who is languishing behind bars since 2009. She was charged with blasphemy for a squabble with a Muslim woman over a cup of water. While Asia Bibi is still alive, but not well in prison, Pakistan has lost two of her very high profile politicians for publicly declaring their support to seek justice for her.  Governor of the Punjab, Salman Taseer, was gunned down by his own body guard Mohammad Qadri on  4th January 2011, while less than two months later,  Shahbaz Bhatti, the Christian Federal Minister was shot to death in his car on his way to his office on 2nd March 2011.

Speaking on these matters Mr Qamar Rafique, along with a few other suggestions presented the idea initiating Shahbaz Bhatti Memorial lectures to keep the mission and the vision of the late martyr alive and fresh on yearly basis.

Ms Ester Das, after narrating the recent atrocities suggested the formation of a forum where youth from minorities can find catharsis for their pent up emotions and problems. A suggestion that was well received by the group, and made note of by Mr Chaudhry. Mr Cecil Chaudhry, Junior presented a comprehensive overview of the NCJP’s work, which was founded by catholic Bishop John Joseph in 1984. The Bishop struggled for the rights of the oppressed minorities and fought for justice and peace all his life, but then on 6th May 1998, when he confronted the impossible task of achieving these desired ends, he committed a protest-suicide in front of the court room in Sahiwal.

Mr John Bosco stated that the injustices and atrocities continue as was recently evidenced by the release of sixteen men accused of murder in the Mishal Khan lynching case. The facts of the matter were not vindicated, but the political strength did a Maulana Samiul Haq was able to save his sympathizers from the clutches of the law.(Mishal Khan was lynched for alleged blasphemy on 13 April 2017, in Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, Pakistan).

Chaudhry explained that NCJP focuses on areas of research, advocacy and provides awareness and empowerment to the poor and the venerable. It also engages in the provision of legal and para legal aid to victims of hate crimes as well as those who are targeted because of their different faiths.  He stressed that a major problem in Pakistan is of the non-acceptance of other faiths. In 1984 a martial law dictator introduced blasphemy laws to strengthen his own grip on the masses, but now their fair enforcement has become a challenge to every successive government.

NCJP has eight offices in Pakistan (head office in Lahore). It has 38 staff members and 150 volunteers; Muslims, Ahmadis, Hindus, Christians, Baha’is and others. As an organization it has had some successes, the notable ones being waging a successful campaign against Bonded Labour, opposing inclusion of  a column for religion on Pakistan’s National Identity Cards (ID cards), and the restoration of joint electorate system for the minorities in Pakistan. Chaudhry said that they have had modest success but a lot more needs to be done. He stated that he lives by a quote which he often heard his father use as a moto for his own life: ‘By faith I am a Christian but my religion is humanity’.

Ruth Cadbury, MP for Brentford & Isleworth, in her short speech appreciated the work that was being done by the members of the Pakistani background Christians in the UK. While sharing her thoughts about the way forward for helping the minorities in Pakistan she promised to join APPG for Pakistan minorities, and to support it in any way possible.

Shaheen Zar asked Mr Chaudhry about how we, the members of the Christian Diaspora, can support the work of NCJP in Pakistan, and Samson Javed requested Mr Chaudhry to kindly convey  the message to all our people back home that we are fighting for their cause the best we can here. In fact, it is not their cause, but our cause, just as much if not even more so. We think about our Christian brothers and sisters all the time and that this meeting is but just one example of the type of activities we constantly engage in to highlight the plight of minorities in Pakistan in front of UK authorities. Akhtar Injeeli, also brought to the attention of the attendees that when Pakistan was created in 1947, the history records a presence of minorities at 23%, however, the current reports put the same number at or below five percent. The question needs to be asked, what has happened to the minorities in Pakistan? Where have they disappeared? The others who actively participated in the debate and discussion were, Thomas Sohtra, Edgar Money and Suleman Akhtar.

In the end Councillor Morris Johns, researcher for and the secretary of All Parties Parliamentary Group for Pakistan’s minorities, thanked the attendees and the guests. The meeting ended with a dinner and exchange of pleasantries.

Pakistan's Christian diaspora laments "selection instead of election"...

 

Comments:

Since Pakistan's independence, 14 August 1947, to date Pakistan has had twelve elections, and now the nation is gearing up for the thirteenth general election scheduled for 25th of July 2018. While the majority community is looking forward to a fair fight and hopes to make gains for their political parties in general and for their communities in particular, the minorities in Pakistan are already crying foul. They are not crying foul because they are afraid that the elections will be rigged but because under the present "Proportional Representative System for minorities" introduced by General Pervaiz Musharaf in 2002, they do NOT have the right to elect their own representatives to the four Provisional Assemblies, nor to the National Assembly.  Believe it or not, all the seats reserved for the minority representatives in all the five assemblies are filled by selected members  by the leaders  proportionately  to the numerical strength of the seats their parties have won. 

The Christians in Pakistan are calling this foul play - and of course, selection of candidates is NOT  same as their election. In fact it is anything but that.

 The above two columns represent not only the views of Mr Samson Javed, President of Pakistan Christian Press Club (PCPC), and of Mr Watson Gill, the convenor of the Overseas Christian Alliance but of nearly every member of Pakistan's Christian Diaspora that I know.

In the United Kingdom, for example, International Christian Council (ICC), headed by Advocate Qamar Shams, called an emergency meeting on 28th June 2018, in a venuel near Heathrow Airport to discuss this matter. Mr Naeem Waiz, the executive vice president, has informed cuwap.org that a unanimous decision was taken to condemn this unfair practice. About two weeks prior to this meeting, ICC had already called for a boycott of these elections.

When I have explained this system to our Muslim friends from Pakistan they two are shocked, as they have always been led to believe (as of course is the rest of the world), that the Christians in the Provincial Assemblies, (MPAs) and in the National Assembly (MNAs) are elected by the Christians. Alas, they are not. That's why I have felt it necessary that the above columns be shared widely. 

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