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Monday, 30 January 2012

Remembering Pakistan’s Christian Peacemaker



Neville Kyrke-Smith Speaking at our 2011 protest!


Dr Martin Stern (Nazi Holocaust Survivor), Bishop Michael Nazir, Neville Kyrke-Smith (ACNUK), Andrea Minichiello Williams and other powerful leaders came together to oppose persecution at last years protest.


Here is a copy of the "Aid to the Church in Need" promotional article regarding our 10th March protest and peace concert.  They will be providing us with a choir led by Gerry Coates who is releasing a CD later this year.  ACNUK has also donated £250 towards the event and their support has been immense from the outset.


By John Newton

A PEACE concert and rally in London will mark the first anniversary of the assassination of Pakistan politician Shahbaz Bhatti, who was killed after speaking out against the country’s blasphemy laws.

The event on Saturday 10th March will commemorate the life and work of Mr Bhatti and will be calling for changes to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which impose sentences including execution and life imprisonment for offences against Islam

Mr Bhatti, Pakistan’s first federal minister for minority affairs, was shot dead while travelling to work in Islamabad. His assassination came after he campaigned for Asia Bibi, Pakistan’s first woman to be sentenced to death under the blasphemy laws, to be pardoned.

The peace rally will start at 11am with a protest outside the Pakistan High Commission, Lowndes Square, London calling for the abolition of the country’s blasphemy laws.

Following the submission of a petition to 10 Downing Street, there will be a concert in Trafalgar Square starting at 3pm.

Those set to speak on the day include Bishop Vahan Hovhanessian, Primate of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church in the UK, Baroness Cox, Matthew Jones from Christian Solidarity Worldwide, and Aid to the Church in Need’s John Pontifex.

John Pontifex, who met Shahbaz Bhatti during an ACN project trip to Pakistan said: “Shahbaz died for a cause – the cause of religious freedom.

“This rally is an excellent opportunity for us to follow in the footsteps of Shahbaz and call for justice and freedom.” 

Prior to his murder on 2nd March last year, Mr Bhatti had been the recipient of numerous death threats.  He began receiving these in 2009, after he spoke out in support of Christians who were attacked in Gojra, Punjab province, following accusations of blasphemy, and increased following his public support for Asia Bibi.

The event is being organised by the British Pakistani Christian Association in conjunction with other organisations including Christian Concern and Aid to the Church in Need.

Event organiser, and chair of the British Pakistani Christian Association, Wilson Chowdhry said: 

“With only 8,174 Pakistani Christians in the UK spread across a wide area it is difficult to organise large protests or petitions against the continued attacks on Christians in Pakistan – so we are pleased that so many of our brothers and sisters from other Christian communities will be joining with us on March 10th.

"Working with other groups such as Christian Concern and Aid to the Church in Need, has shown us that collaboratively we can  achieve much more – and this year we will be joined by Coptic Christians and Armenian Christians who are also suffering from religious persecution.

“People who feel compassion for these affected minorities should join us in calling for UK Government intervention – quite simply, only your presence on 10th March will make this event a success.”

Further details of the BPCA protest and Peace concert can be found here:

http://britishpakistanichristian.blogspot.com/2011/11/protest-march-and-trafalgar-square.html


BPCA report secures Christian victim's stay in the UK - worth every penny we have been told!

Our high profile campaigns for justice seem to be having some effect!


The British Pakistani Christian Association(BPCA) is pleased to announce a successful appeal opposing a very unfair asylum decision against a persecuted Pakistan Christian.

The decision was made in late December, butwe have waited to announce it because there was still a window for theSecretary of State to appeal – this window has now passed. The BPCA had been particularly concerned with this case as it was one of several where the UK Border Agency (UKBA) had rejected the application on very spurious grounds and in effect called the victim a liar.

The case involved Mr Raza, a Catholic who was persecuted and reported to the police after he responded vigorously to some anti-Christian Muslims who accosted him in his father’s shop. Given the earlier grounds of refusal that implied Mr Raza was a liar, the BPCA is particularly gratified to notice that the judge commented that he found Mr Raza to be ‘in all material respects an honest and reliable witness’.

The original rejection used as grounds forc alling Mr Raza a liar the fact that he had left via a major airport when there was a First Information Report (FIR) against him and that official procedure states that an FIR means the person accused cannot leave the country. Quite correctly, the judge noted that it was quite realistic for ‘operational error (or incompetence)’ to be a factor –assuming that the airport authorities had been notified in the first place.

We hope that the UKBA takes this judgement seriously and applies it to other cases, given they have used this dubious argument to reject several other applications of persecuted Pakistani Christians.

We are also pleased that the judge rightly dismissed the ridiculous accusations of fundamental dishonesty over cultural usage of the term ‘uncle’.

We are also pleased that the judge correctly noted the hold that Islamic extremists and the police hold across the country and that therefore internal displacement was not a realistic option – again we hope that the UKBA will take serious note of this in future asylum applications, as they have a nasty habit of immediately assuming internal displacement is an adequate option for persecuted Christians.

Finally, the BPCA is pleased to note the judge took notice of our letters and reports in support of Mr Raza and mentioned the work of the BPCA several times during his decision document.


We charge a simple fee of £200 for our reports and our clients include a number of UK Solicitors. Worth every penny judging by this result and our 100% success rate with over 10 clients! The money from these reports goes towards essential operational costs for the BPCA.


Our campaign is ongoing, if you would like to see a fairer Pakistan please join our 10th March protest and Peace Concert:


http://britishpakistanichristian.blogspot.com/2011/11/protest-march-and-trafalgar-square.html

Friday, 27 January 2012

Nelson Christians make themselves heard!

David Dean a man who many of our community could learn from.   Not only does he have undying respect from all the young Asian Christians in Nelson, but his humility has made me a huge fan.  Can't wait to hear him speak at this years event!

Pakistani Christians from Nelson, an ecumenical mix of  Catholics, Baptists, United reformists and other denominations are set to converge with many other Christians of wide diversity - at our protest and peace concert on 10th March.

Last year over 50 people form the remarkably well connected and cohesive Christians in this North Eastern region of Britain joined us, bringing a choir and a whole host of speakers with them.  They hired a coach and had to endure a 5 hour trip to get to London and a similar journey back.

This year they intend to top that number and have already been advertising the event into wider Pakistani Christian diaspora, such as Birmingham, and Manchester.

Leaders from the community there; David Dead, Akmal Zahid and Vinnie Masih (aka the Hoodlum), have invited Wilson Chowdhry to speak at a united service for Pakistani Christians in the area on 5th February 2012.

Wilson will be encouraging support for the 10th March Peace Concert and protest whilst also describing some of the in-roads made by the BPCA over 2011.

Please keep this event in your prayer diary, in particular praying for the continued unity  amongst Pakistani Christians in Nelson and surrounding areas and for a stirring of hearts to occur that will lead many to join our peace rally.

Further details of the Protest and Peace concert on 10th March 2012 can be found here:

http://britishpakistanichristian.blogspot.com/2011/11/protest-march-and-trafalgar-square.html



Thursday, 26 January 2012

Christmas Appeal Fundraiser for Christian Prison Service.

We received several donations in recent weeks which have been sent without any reference.  We have been able to allocate some of them to our BPCA Christmas appeal for Pastor Javaid and his Christian Prison service.  The total amount collected for them so far is £120.  If you have sent us a donation for this scheme and did not reference your payment please do so so that we can ensure your payment is sent correctly.


Unreferenced donations will be used towards our Peace Concert and protest on the 10th March 2012:

http://britishpakistanichristian.blogspot.com/2011/11/protest-march-and-trafalgar-square.html

We are still in dire need of contributions towards the peace concert and hope that some of our members can offer some assistance.  Stalls at the Trafalgar Square are being discounted at a cut price cost of £100 if you as an individual or group would like to run a stall at the event please get in contact.

Please also keep the event in your prayers.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Reports emerge that Asia Bibi's accuser has admitted his report was false and based on personal bias and religious emotion!

A number of stories are emerging casting more doubt on the flimsy blasphemy charge placed on the innocent mother of five - Asia Bibi.  Her case has instigated an international campaign against the blasphemy law of Pakistan, Whilst Asia has become the emblem of the emancipation of global minorities, now named the Rosa Parks of the Islamic World.  First reports of the change of heart of Qari Islam her accuser where published on Demotix:


Qari Salam,who accused Christian woman Aasia Bibi on blasphemy chages,which resulted in this poor woman's jail sentence and possible hanging, ostensibly regrets filing a blasphemy charge against an impoverished Christian woman.

The source of his guilt – realisation that the case was not based on facts but on hyped religious emotions and personal bias of some village women,including his wife..

Aasia has been languishing in Sheikhupura jail since a sessions court awarded her death sentence for insulting Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Support from London

Qari, according to some of his close friends, was now thinking of not pursuing the case anymore and expressed his desire to some of his friends, only to find himself in a difficult situation when activists of an Islamic religious organisation ‘convinced’ him not to change his mind.

“We will chase her through hell … don’t worry about the money, hiring best lawyers,” Salam told The Express Tribune, quoting the son of Khatm-e-Nabuwat’s London chapter’s leader.

The leader’s son flew in to Nankana from London after hearing that Salam might not go to Lahore High
Court (LHC) when the review petition against Aasia’s conviction is taken up.





It is imperative that Pakistani authorities investigate the veracity of these statements. If they find them to be true then it should be an imperative that the Presidential power of veto is used to bring justice to this situation.  If not I foresee the enactment of a kangaroo court case that will allow militant groups and extremists to subvert justice or simply stir up even more religious polarisation.


Please pray for the safety of Asia Bibi and her family.  If you are able to make our 10th March protest please join us and raise your voice against the ongoing oppression of religious minorities in Pakistan and the Middle East.  Further details can be found here:


http://britishpakistanichristian.blogspot.com/2011/11/protest-march-and-trafalgar-square.html

Please sign our petition calling for an end to foreign aid to Pakistan until human rights improve:

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/5009



EU Parliamentarians concerned about Pakistan!


After my recent invitation to join the EU Conference on "Protecting Minority Rights in South Asia" I am please to our members on progress from the meeting.  We are now directly in touch with MEP Werthmann through her PA and they have been working with The BPCA In tabling questions to the EU Parliament regarding existing foreign aid to Pakistan.  After the meeting MEP Werthmann's PA informed me of  a question that had already been posed at Parliament, she said; 

"Concerning our work on Pakistan and EU funding we are still at the beginning.  Mrs. Werthmann raised a first question on the issue to the European Commission at the end of September. Unfortunately the answer by the Commission is not very detailled and neglects the possibility of embezzlement by Pakistani authorities:


I have sent two other, more detailed questions to the Commission yesterday, which should be online soon. The Commission´s answer is expected within 6 weeks."  

I have today been informed that a further question has been posed and that one more is pending.  The BPCA will keep you informed of progress.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Jews from the Middle East and North Africa are proud to stand with Christians in the Muslim world

Harif at a protest  September 2011 - picture by Adrian Korsner

Lyn Julius is a journalist and co-founder of Harif, a group representing Jews from the Middle East and North Africa. Her parents fled Iraq in 1950.  She joins us on the 10th of March for a united call to end oppression.  Lyn talked about  her decision to join us this year:


I will be joining you on the 10th March to represent HARIF, an association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa. We are delighted to be here to support our Christian brethren in your march and peace concert. Your fight is our fight. We non-Muslim and non-Arab minorities in the Arab and Muslim world are all in this together.


There is a saying: “First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people.”


We Jews are the Saturday people. We have been indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa since Biblical times. But in the last 60 years over a million Jews have been driven out from the Muslim world – and that includes three thousand Jews from Pakistan. If it were not for the existence of Israel we would be refugees, and dispersed around the world.


My family comes from Iraq, where there were Jews 1,000 years before the Muslims. In 1948 there were 140,000 Jews. Today there are six.  


The nightmare is repeating itself all over again. We are seeing the same plight befall you, the Sunday people. You too are being driven out by violence, intolerance and persecution.


We are facing a time of great flux in the Arab world. If the peoples of the region are to enjoy a better future, non-Muslim minorities must be free from fear, free from insecurity, free from persecution and intimidation. They must be permitted to practise their religion freely and not under sufferance. They must be allowed their rights as full and equal citizens.   


We non-Muslims are the canary in the coal mine. If we are driven away or die, society in general suffers. Our very existence guarantees the rights of everyone else. That’s why we are here today.  


Learn more about our 10th March 2012 protest and Trafalgar Square peace concert here:


http://britishpakistanichristian.blogspot.com/2011/11/protest-march-and-trafalgar-square.html



Thursday, 19 January 2012

Lord Alton speaks out for minorities in Pakistan during House of Lords question!

Lord Alton invited Wilson Chowdhry to the house of Lords June 18th Last year to assist with a question to the House. 

During a question posed in the House of lords today (19th Jan) Lord Alton referred quite directly to the use of British foreign aid in Pakistan (in red at the end of this post) he argued that British aid should be used to promote a society which respects and tolerates it's minorities and promotes high ethical standard.  Quite importantly, Lord Alton queried whether any of the aid was being misused and redirected to more extremist or conservative groups, many whom have been blamed for the recent spate of sectarian violence in Pakistan.

Lord Alton's question was met by a riposte form Baroness Warsi (in blue at the end of the posting) who met with the Catholic Archbishop of Karachi.  She said "..the Christian community in Karachi is doing well, despite its challenges."  

The BPCA recently reported on a number of issues in Karachi including the following:

Martyr Archie Dass shot dead in Karachi Streets:

http://britishpakistanichristian.blogspot.com/2011/08/christian-shot-dead-in-karachi-by-land.html

Karachi Christians attacked:


Another Karachi Christian killed:


Karachi Christian seeks Asylum in UK:


Karachi Evangelist murdered:


Poor Christian mother of 4 murdered:


These are but a few of the Pakistani Christian incidents of persecution in Pakistan.

Perhaps Baroness Warsi should have contacted the Hindu Minority for their perspective, considering the recent killing of 3 doctors and a colleague in Karachi:

http://britishpakistanichristian.blogspot.com/2011/11/hindu-community-of-pakistan-outraged.html

Perhaps Baroness Warsi has not been advised of the tragic maltreatment of the children set free from torture and abuse at a Karachi, self claimed seminary (madrasser).  Madrassers are proliferating in Pakistan,  a popular educational choice for impoverished families simply due to affordability:

http://britishpakistanichristian.blogspot.com/2011/12/dire-state-of-pakistani-education.html

Please pray for Lord Alton and the wonderful work he is doing. He has been a strong supporter of the campaign for a fairer Pakistan even posing an earlier House of Lords question June 22nd 2011:

http://britishpakistanichristian.blogspot.com/2011/06/lord-alton-to-pose-oral-questions-for.html

Please pray for wisdom and understanding for all the Lords that represent the UK.  Particularly when tackling ongoing concerns about global persecution.

We thank Lord Alton for keeping us informed of his valuable work.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pakistan

Question January 19th 2012.
11.29 am

Asked by Baroness Falkner of Margravine
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Government of Pakistan and other interested parties regarding the current political situation in Pakistan.

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, when I visited Pakistan last week, I called on Prime Minister Gillani and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, and I had discussions with President Zardari, Chief Minister for the Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, the governor of Sindh and Imran Khan. We are following the situation of Pakistan closely. We want it to enjoy free and fair elections and we believe that it is important to avoid escalating tensions. A strong and stable constitutional democracy is in the interests of Pakistan and we encourage all involved to act in a way that respects the constitution and helps to ensure stability.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine: I thank the Minister for the very interventionist stand that the Government are taking. I would not expect her to agree with the proposition that, while normal states have a military, in Pakistan’s case it is the military that has a state. However, would she nevertheless agree that when there is a highly interventionist and politically motivated supreme court, a military that challenges the civilian Government over the dismissal of the Defence Secretary and a military and intelligence service that supports rival candidates in an election, the position in terms of democracy in Pakistan is very dangerous? Can the Minister tell the House whether the UK Government, as a friend of Pakistan, are considering a Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group to intervene to bring about a break in the impasse that currently holds?

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, Pakistan faces challenging political times but that is not new. All parties in Pakistan recognise that this is a huge opportunity for Pakistan, for once, to have a full-term democratically elected Government pass power to another democratically elected Government. From all the discussions that we have had with all parties in Pakistan, they all recognise how high the stakes are. The noble Baroness will be aware of a Friends of Pakistan group, and it may well be that these are matters that can be discussed there.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I particularly welcome the way in which the Minister reached out during her visit to Pakistan to people from minorities, especially religious minorities. Has she noted that this month is the first anniversary of the assassination of Salman Taseer, the former governor of the Punjab, who was murdered along with Shahbaz Bhatti, the former Minister for Minorities in Pakistan? Can she tell the House whether, during her discussions, she considered how British aid is being used in Pakistan? Is it being used to create and promote the sort of values espoused by Members of your Lordships’ House and the British Government, or is any of that money being siphoned into causes and groups that promote the kind of sectarian violence that led to the deaths of Shahbaz Bhatti and the governor of the Punjab?

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, the assassinations of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti were tragic for both Pakistan and the rest of the world. They were a personal tragedy for me because of my personal relationship with Shahbaz Bhatti. However, as I promised him, I visited Karachi when I was in Pakistan, and specifically visited a convent school for girls and met the Archbishop of Karachi. The school is an excellent example of service to education and to interfaith relations. It is run by an Irish nun who has been in Pakistan for 58 years. I was delighted to hear from the Archbishop that the Christian community in Karachi is doing well, despite its challenges.

Our main commitment to aid in Pakistan is through the education programme. We are committed to 4 million more children being educated as a result of DfID’s commitment in Pakistan. I am sure that all in your Lordships’ House would agree that the best way to open minds and to deal with the challenges of extremism is through better educated young people.

Lord Reid of Cardowan: My Lords, in the midst of the current political difficulties in Pakistan, will the Minister take the opportunity to reaffirm that the stability of Pakistan, and its friendship with this country, remain key political objectives of the Government, not only because it is a member of the Commonwealth and a sovereign state with nuclear weapons, but because of its important role in the whole of that region?

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, since Britain is an ex-colonial power in Pakistan, the level of respect for Pakistan and our relationship with it always surprise and please me. There is a historical and cultural link. Pakistan’s biggest diaspora lives in Britain and Britain’s biggest diaspora is of Pakistani origin. There are 1.4 million journeys between the two countries each year. In all discussions with all interlocutors in Pakistan, we are consistently told that Britain’s relationship with Pakistan is respected and deeply supported. In those circumstances, we have a responsibility to use that relationship for a stable and prosperous Pakistan, which we recognise will lead to a more stable and prosperous Britain.

Lord Hussain: My Lords, will the Minister please tell the House what steps Her Majesty’s Government are taking to reduce the tension between the United States and Pakistan that has grown and is born out of the incident at the Pakistan army check-posts a few months ago, which resulted in the loss of 24 Pakistani army personnel?

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, the Government have expressed their deepest condolences to the families of the 26 young men who were killed in that incident. However, we also recognise that, despite our special relationship with Pakistan and our special relationship and friendship with the US, it is for the US and Pakistan to resolve their relationship.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I welcome the focus on education because that is clearly so important within Pakistan, but is this money and support for education going down through government routes or is it going out separately to educational institutions? When I was the Security Minister, I was somewhat appalled that money seemed to get diverted and that the amount of money that actually got to the schools and to where it was required became very small compared with what was injected at the top.

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, the commitment is to educate 4 million children. It is a very specific commitment. It is not to give an amount of money but to ensure that 4 million additional children are put into education as well as providing training for a specific number of teachers and a specific amount of resources for schools. That money is channelled through the Government, predominantly on a provincial basis, but it is also channelled through NGOs—about 40 per cent of it passes through the provincial Governments and about 60 per cent passes outside.

David Alton
(Professor Lord Alton of Liverpool)
House of Lords,
London SW1A OPW

Armenian Bishop stands with Pakistani Christians calling for an end to persecution!

The Right Reverend Bishop Vahan Hovhanessian and Wilson Chowdhry after a meeting with Baroness Randerson (Liberal Democrat Peerage) and other humanitarians 18th January 2012.

Human Right figures representing many forgotten minorities met to debate international persecution affecting a number fo nations.  The event itself was set the day before the anniversary assassination of Hrant Dink (RIP 19th January 2007), a Turkish Citizen of Armenian descent and former editor-in-chief of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos.  Mr Dink was best known for advocating Turkish-Armenian reconciliation and human and minority rights in Turkey.   Desmond Fernandes delivered a speech on the current persecution in Turkey. A speech by  Dr Suran Cam on the crypto-Armenians in Turkey was read in Turkey. Hiarbir Mari  spoke on the persecution of Baluchis  in occupied Baluchistan and  Wilson Chowdhry spoke on the abuses of Christians in Pakistan respectively.


To open Eilian Williams a welsh Christian of Armenian descent quoted from Rakel Dink wife of the slain humanitarian, to illustrate the experience of those Armenians who reside in the Turkish interior: 

"All the time up to today, we Armenians were humiliated, insulted for being Armenians; we heard people use the term Armenian as a curse. We heard it and we still keep hearing it as such in the newspapers, TV, birth registration offices, we hear it from public servants all the way to the highest authorities. "

He pointed out that Rakel did not find Justice in the conclusion of the trial this week.  Those within the deep state who were implicated in the terrble crime against Hrant's life were protected.

Baroness Randerson was reminded of Turkey's continual denial of the Armenian Genocide, when during the declining years the Ottoman Empire, over 1.5 million Armenian Christians were killed.  Wholesale massacres and forced marches for deportees designed to cause, fatigue, hunger and ultimately death are blamed for the huge loss of life, during a much recognised first modern genocide.  Descriptions of contemporary actions of violence and murder on dissidents and significant inequality for Armenians, painted an ugly picture of Turkish society.

Bishop Vahan Hovanessian from the Diocese of the Armenian Church of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, condemned the on-going denial and called for stronger Western Government intervention when tackling international persecution.  He said;


“As followers of a divine revelation, it is imperative for all believers in the Abrahamic religions to work together, despite their differences, in bringing peace to their communities and their world. It is only then that we can prove to the world that these religions are divinely-inspired and life-changing ways of living, and not man-made ideologies that can be hijacked to spread destruction, pain and war.”
Wilson Chowdhry from the British Pakistani Christian Association described the ongoing persecution and inequality faced by Pakistani Christians.  He spoke of the sacrifice of Shahbaz Bhatti the assassinated Federal Minister of Minorities, he described the unpleasant arrest and incarceration of Asia Bibi, of the threats to her safety and recent attempt to kill her in prison. Wilson explained that Christians fleeing Pakistan suffer frequent refusals when applying for asylum in the UK and called for recognition of human right breaches that have made life for minorities in Pakistan, comparable to depictions of hell.

Baroness Randerson was moved by the various talks and has asked for a transcript of the various talkers main points. 

Wilson Chowdhry said:

"The meeting was successful Baroness Randerson listened attentively and has agreed to review all the points made at the meeting.  Moreover Bishop Vahan Hovenessian has agreed to join the time of prayer at our protest and peace concert on the 10th March 2012.  A coming together of so many humanitarians is a formidable tool in the challenge to global oppression."

We call on our members to remember our Armenian brothers today the anniversary of the assassination of one of their loudest proponents.  RIP Hrant Dink a Martyr for his people and homeland.



Caste and its Implications


Caste and its Implications

Ranbir Singh (Hindu Human Rights Group)

The caste system is almost always made synomous with Hinduism. Indeed in the discussions I have attended the anti-caste lobby are noticeable by their venomous tirades against all things Hindu. Faces redden, saliva spews out of the mouth, fists bang on lecterns and tables as incomprehensible tantrums work up the crowd. After about an hour even the crowd get immune to this as each speaker runs over their allotted time and each conspiracy theory gets even more unbeleivable than its predecessor. Hindu points of view are noticeable by their absence.

While Hinduism is blamed for the caste system we must note that every pre-modern society was brazenly inegalitarian. Equality is a product of modernity and would have been inconceivable without industrialisation and modernisation which broke down the traditional feudal ties which bound peasants and serfs to the land and shifted power to the towns and cities. In Britain from the eighteenth century we find that enclosures in rural areas changed patterns of land use to the detriment of tenants who were now pauperised as landless casual labourers, while the great noble families benefited immensely from beign the few that actually owned land and reaped the rewards of rents. Destitution accelerated the drift to urban centres where new industries such as cotton, coal, iron and steel needed workers for labour intensive factory systems which enriched a newly emerging entrepreneurial middle-class. Growing rich and winning the vote in 1832 it was his first generation of capitalists which supplanted the power of the aristocrats in Parliament. Mercantilism and its protected market using slave labour was replaced by free trade and laissez-faire economics The long inexorable march to an urbanised society with new patterns of social hierarchy and mobility had begun and was emulated in other nations.

Caste is codified in Hindu religious texts which reflect the prevailing social norms of the time, which was of course, as with much of Europe until as recently as a century ago, an overwhelmingly agricultural society. Hence we find similar types of social system in areas of the world where industrialisation has yet to take full effect and where urban living remains the exception of the few. This is why we find caste prevalent in Pakistan. The great landowning families such as Bhuttos not only the land but also the people on them. That is why land ownership is always the dream of Third World peasants today much as it was of Irish emigrants to America in the aftermath of the Potato Famine. Land provides food, income and stability in an otherwise merciless world where welfare systems funded by taxation are non-existent, and even taxation is erratic. Pakistan’s great landlord families are guaranteed political clout under military dictatorship by their traditional power base in a society which accords respect to wealth based on land ownership. In democratic times this power base is guaranteed by the captive votes which the serfs give unquestioned to their feudal lords. There is scant concept of here on voting based on ideology or to one’s conscience. In such societies traditional patterns of land use and rural power base ensure that caste based on occupation, tribal origins and lore, as well as socio-economic status remains largely undisturbed. It is this which anti-caste groups in Britain rarely look at because it does not allow them to simply blame Hinduism for caste discrimination. In all pre-industrial societies the inherent inequality will never be tackled under effective means are undertaken towards modernisation which will mean dragging such societies kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century. In Pakistan the power nexus of military, mullahs and zamindars has precluded such attempts. For minority Christians and Hindus this is doubly worse. Even if they are relatively affluent, as non-Muslims they are subject to officially sanctioned discrimination and violence. For the low caste and often poor, dependent on their very existence and protection on landlords, police and employers, they are deliberately pauperised and kept as third-class citizens, easy pickings for bonded labour, sexual exploitation and trafficking. The minority religious element in this only makes it worse and deepens their untouchable status. The solution is that along with modernisation there needs to be evolution of common citizenship and values integral to the healthy functioning of civil society. Only then will caste and other forms of discrimination finally be stamped out of existence.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Pakistan's political instability poses real danger for Christians!


In an interview with the radio station TWR, the British Pakistani Christian Association’s Wilson Chowdhry,  discusses the possible future political instability in Pakistan and its implications for Christians and other minorities. 

Already existing tensions are on the rise between the government, the judiciary and the powerful military (including the notorious ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence and security service), against a background of rumours of a possible coup by the ISI and the military.

Mr Choudhry expressed concern that while an improvement in conditions for vulnerable minorities like Christians was possible with some kind of regime change, the opposite was more likely to happen, citing the example of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ where increasingly intolerant Islamicist groups have taken over, resulting in gravely deteriorating conditions.  In addition, he said that general unrest of any sort would provide a great opportunity for Islamic militants – or indeed, anyone with a grudge – to attack Christians while the already weak forces of law and order were otherwise occupied. 

He also discussed the general level of corruption in Pakistani society and especially politics.  In the light of this, he raised again the BPCA’s concern about the UK’s aid to Pakistan, in particular in the area of education.  He noted that a recent report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom on Pakistan’s education system revealed significant prejudice and bias in textbooks against religious minorities even in government run schools.  In the light of this, the BPCA have called for the government to introduce stringent safeguards so that the UK funds granted for literacy campaigns are not used to spread intolerance. 

Now, in the light of the general corruption in Pakistan, the BPCA is going further and recommending that the UK government send the aid through vetted and monitored NGO’s and charity’s in partnership with the Pakistani government, saying that this will reduce the level of money lost to corruption and help ensure that the money will be spent in ways that promote standards that better represent the UK’s values of tolerance and freedom and also the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices commitment to counter the causes of terrorism.  

Saturday, 14 January 2012

100 followers of our blog!



As we approach our 3rd year of existence (August 2012), we are pleased to notice the number of followers of our blog has reached 100.  In total the number of page views on our site since its initiation has reached 206,081.  


This is good news for us, as the BPCA blog is a pivotal tool in our ambition to create a united network of supporters, for real and positive socio-political change in Pakistan.


We would like to thank all those that have supported us thus far and urge members our our "BPCA Community" (those on our distribution list), to take this challenge and spread our message of hope and peace through your personal networks.  Together we can champion the change we wish to see through to reality.



Isaiah 1:17 ESV 

Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Guest writer Michelle Chaudhry speaks on Exploitation of Blasphemy Law





Michelle Chaudhry (daughter of Former Wing Commander Cecil Chaudhry) Chief Executive for the Iris Foundation,  remembers slain Governor Salman Taseer a year after his assassination:

JANUARY 4 marked the first death anniversary of the former governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, who was assassinated in Islamabad by his bodyguard, a religious fanatic, as the governor dared to speak against Pakistan`s draconian blasphemy laws and chose to render support to Asia Bibi, a poor Christian woman, falsely accused and convicted under these laws.

While some of us, the religious minorities in particular, observed the day remembering Salmaan Taseer by holding special candlelight and prayer vigils, tributes were paid to the brave and courageous Salmaan Taseer who stoodby his principles and sacrificed his life for interfaith harmony, religious freedom and equality for all human beings and, on the other hand, a certain fraction of society held rallies and processions to venerate his murderer.

It was appalling to read how over 1,000 people gathered at the Data Darbar and various other places in Lahore in support of Mumtaz Qadri, the man who killed Salmaan Taseer.

The participants held up portraits of Mumtaz Qadri, chanted slogans in his honour and demanded his release. A resolution was also adopted, requesting President Zardari to declareclemency for Mumtaz Qadri.

They justified Qadri`s act of violence and pledged to follow in his footsteps against every `blasphemer` in other words, blatantly expressing their intention to murder.

I fail to understand what Islam these so-called `defenders of Islam` are following because the Islam that I know forbids murder, the Holy Quran equates the murder of one human being with the murder of the whole of humanity.

Here we have a confessed and convicted murderer whose crime is being idolised by some who are in all practicality showing intent to murder if the needarises. The government chooses to look the other way, while religious fanatics walk the streets, posing a threat to anyone who dares to raise a voice in favour of equality, justice, religious harmony and tolerance.

The government`s inability to take action in this regard disseminates the power that religious extremists have over the government. My question is: is the government prepared to take responsibility if another Salmaan Taseer or Shahaz Bhatti becomes victims of the vigilante? Furthermore, the statement by the Punjab planning and development minister in the PunjabAssembly that `diehard followers of Muhammad (peace be upon him) might not wait for court orders and decide the fate of blasphemers themselves. So my advice to blasphemers is to refrain from committing blasphemy.

Is it to be understood that the minister is suggesting that when it came to blasphemy, anyone is free to act as a prosecutor, judge and executor? We condemn these acts in the strongest possible manner and demand that immediate action be taken, as acts such as these amount to actual incitement to murder, which contravenes the laws of Pakistan and is a punishable offence.

The government must ensure safety and protection of all its citizens without any kind of discrimination whatsoever.
MICHELLE CHAUDHRY
Lahore

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When you send payments to the BPCA please ensure you use the appropriate reference code that will be highlighted in the body of any posting about the charitable collection.

Any payments without a reference code will be assumed to be donations towards the regular functioning of our group.  We have noticed that on a number of recent payments there is no reference.  If you have sent money for a particular cause without an appropriate reference, please do advise.

Shelter and refuge for the old and infirm usurped by Punjab Government!


An institution ‘Gosha-e-Aman (a Strangers Home)’ situated at Allama Iqbal Road, Garhi Shahu – Lahore run by a board of Catholic Church and managed by CARITAS Pakistan, was demolished  on 10th Jan  2012.   The Government of Punjab has now established it's possession through police.

This institution is registered in the name of Lahore Charitable Association and was established in 1887. This is 2 acres land worth billions of rupees had a large compound that previously housed; a home for elderly people, a girls school, a convent and a Chapel (small Church).

The District Coordinating Officer (DCO is the highest civil servant of the district) was present to supervise the demolition with heavy mechanical apparatus and a  contingent of police. He ordered a couple of families residing there to move out of the building and started demolition. The DCO and other police officials on location claimed that the property had been transferred to the Punjab government.  

The Catholic Board have alleged that no document to support the claim was provided.  They are also claiming that no notice of eviction or transfer was served to the legal property holders (Lahore Charitable Association). Many copies of Bible and various religious artifacts were also destroyed during the demolition.

A press conference was called by the Catholic Church at Lahore press club in the afternoon addressed by Fr. Emmanuel Yousaf a Senior Catholic Priest.

He strongly condemned this act of the Punjab government and demanded that the possession of the property should be returned to its legal holders immediately.  He also demanded that compensation should be given for all losses.  Referring to previous incidents of aggression against religious minorities specifically with the Christian Community at Gojra, Shantinagar, he said that the government should stop jeopardizing the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan.

Fr. Emmanuel Yousaf displayed legal papers confirming ownership of  the property and  a stay order from the local  court.  He also showed papers for a pending case at Lahore High Court.  It was alleged by Father  Yousaf that a women who came for shelter in the institution, who later converted to Islam, was  claiming the proprietorship of the two rooms she occupied.

A protest rally to condemn the incident was held at 10:00 a.m on 11th January 2012, on location of the demolition site.    


Catholic TV have provided footage of the destruction:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAIee1gRANU


If you are concerned about the situation faced by millions of Pakistani Christians please join our 10th March Protest:


http://britishpakistanichristian.blogspot.com/2011/11/protest-march-and-trafalgar-square.html

Thursday, 12 January 2012

CAN Goes to London to Stand Against Islamic Anti-Blasphemy Laws

On March 3, 2012, the President of the Christian Action Network, Martin Mawyer, will be in London to stand with other leaders in condemning the anti-blasphemy laws in the Islamic world used to persecute non-Muslims, especially those who leave Islam. Mawyer was invited to speak by the British-Pakistani Christian Association at the Trafalgar Square Peace Concert.

The event is being held on the one-year anniversary of the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian member of Pakistan's Federal Government. He was killed after he publicly spoke out against the blasphemy laws of the country.

"Shahbaz Bhatti is a hero, whose extraordinary bravery cost him his life, but almost no one knows his name," said Mawyer.

CAN is working closely with other organizations to have resolutions against the blasphemy simultaneously introduced on March 2. So far, officials in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Ireland and the Netherlands are supporting potential resolutions. In the U.K., a motion will be read in the House of Commons by MP Andrew Stephenson.

"The purpose of the motion is to see peace delivered to the suffering Christians and other minorities of Pakistan during a pivotal year for Britain, when we carry the Olympic Torch of Peace," said Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the British-Pakistani Christian Association.

The motion that will be read will make the case that the blasphemy laws directly violate freedom of speech and religion, specifically Articles 18 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It also will point out that taxpayer money from citizens in the West goes to Pakistan despite this oppression.

The Christian Action Network hopes to bring attention to the case of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani mother who converted to Christianity from Islam and has been sentenced to death. She has already been in prison for two years for allegedly criticizing Islam and its founders. The organization refers to her as "the Rosa Parks of the Islamic world."

Learn more about our protest and peace concert here:

http://britishpakistanichristian.blogspot.com/2011/11/protest-march-and-trafalgar-square.html