A Christian family who had to flee for their lives from Pakistan are now instrumental in alerting European leaders to the suffering of minority groups in their homeland and elsewhere.
Currently living in Glasgow, brothers Sheraz and Shahid Khan have set up the Global Minorities Alliance. Chairman Sheraz said: ‘There is a lot of discrimination in Pakistan and this motivated us to set up the Alliance which condemns any kind of violence against minorities anywhere in the world.’
The Alliance website reported how – earlier this month – a mob set fire to the homes and shops of more than 100 Christians in Lahore, Eastern Pakistan. The area, called Joseph Colony, was attacked after two men who had been friends, had a disagreement. The Muslim man accused his Christian friend of ‘blasphemy.’ Under recent laws, people found guilty of blasphemy can be sentenced to life imprisonment or death. A Christian woman farm hand, Aasia Bibi has been on death row for almost five years after work colleagues accused the mother of five of blasphemy. In 2009 amid similar accusations of blasphemy, eight Christians were burnt alive in Gojra, a small town in Punjab.
Shahbaz Bhatti, the country’s only Christian minister for minorities and a long-time critic of the blasphemy laws, was gunned down on 2 March 2011.
In Pakistan 97 percent of the population are Muslim with the remaining 3 percent made up of Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Ahmadiyya and Parsis.
Younger brother Shahid Khan was in Germany when violence erupted in Joseph Colony. As Vice Chairman of the Alliance, he was meeting German Parliamentarians and religious leaders to alert them to the plight of minorities in his own country and in other places around the world.
He said: ‘We are deeply concerned over the continuous abuse of Pakistan blasphemy laws. We call for peace, tolerance and harmony in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world and we request President Zardari of Pakistan, to release Aasia Bibi.’
Only days after the recent violence in Lahore, Shahid met Mr Memet Kilic and Mrs Ute Granold both German Parliamentarians, and told them of the conflicts in Pakistan and elsewhere.
Both Parliamentarians expressed support for the Alliance’s call for peace, global tolerance and interfaith respect and harmony. Along with Mr Khan, they condemned the growing sectarian, religious and communal violence in Pakistan.
Later, Rabbi Daniel Alter, a representative of Berlin’s Jewish community on Interfaith Dialogue, assured Shahid Khan of his strong support of the Alliance. He invited the Alliance to apprise his community of its vision. The two men pledged to work together to promote global interfaith harmony.
The Alliance website reports on persecution of minority groups around the world: www.globalminorities.co.uk
Maryhill Integration Network’s dance piece ‘Lullaby Spirit’ is one of the events to be seen in
DOCUMENT – the ten day festival on human rights issues in Glasgow starting on Friday 19 October.
The beautifully choreographed piece by Natasha Gilmore, centres on sleep and is interpreted by people from around the world who have arrived in Maryhill for a multitude of different reasons. Those different reasons are seen and understood even without one word being spoken. Produced by award winning author Remzije Sherifi, the dance is skilfully shown by adults and children who are touching on their own experiences.
That is just one of the stunning events and 85 films on offer at DOCUMENT which celebrates its tenth year now.
Another local contribution will be the special screening of ‘Roma of Govanhill’ with a guest audience of Govanhill residents.
Most of the films and events take place at the Centre of Contemporary Art (CCA) at the Charing Cross end of Sauchiehall Street but some are scheduled for Glasgow University’s Gilmorehill Centre at the foot of University Avenue near Kelvin Way.
Festival Director Mona Rai said: “A visit to DOCUMENT Film Festival is like time-travelling through a decade of world events from the comfort of an armchair.”
A special award presented by an international jury has been created for the best film. In the form of a glass sculpture featuring Glasgow’s Duke of Wellington statue, complete with his famous traffic cone ‘hat’, it will be handed over during the final gala night on Sunday 28 October in the CCA. The winner will be one of the 11 films which have already won a category at the Festival. All of them will be screened in Glasgow. On the same evening Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh will receive the Festival’s DOCUMENT Lifetime Achievement Award. His films explore the state of Cambodia in the aftermath of years of genocide.
Other events include ‘Harry Horseplay’ a tribute to cartoonist and social commentator Harry Horse performed by actor Tam Dean Burn.
The festival programme will also feature a debate on Israel and Palestine, with a screening of films made by B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, in association with The Guardian newspaper.
Other film highlights include ‘The Redemption of General Butt Naked’, about former Liberian warlord Joshua Milton Blahyi who reinvents himself as a Christian evangelist preacher.
‘The Sisterhood’ tells the story of Hope, Rollie and Pietie, South African vineyard workers and drag queens.
Full details can be found at http://documentfilmfestival.org/doc10/
All screenings are free for OAPS and asylum seekers / refugees. Since visiting international film directors from Germany, Poland, Italy, South America and elsewhere will be attending DOCUMENT is a Festival where there is a lot going on. Don’t miss it! See their website: www.documentfilmfestival.org
At least three asylum seekers in Glasgow have been locked out of their accommodation by Ypeople without warning. Each was left in the clothes he was standing in but with all his worldly goods behind the unyielding door.
The Christian charity, Ypeople, has lost the accommodation contract to house asylum seekers in Glasgow. The UK Borders Agency (UKBA) has given the £175 million contract to SERCO Group plc, instead, a British registered private service company which runs detention centres around the world.
Said Jeremiah from Zimbabwe whose case is in the process of being presented for a judicial review : ‘When I couldn’t open the door on Monday morning, I went to my lawyer. He told me to speak to the Home Office. They said I had to move everything out by tonight (Monday 14 May). I’ve lived here for four years and said that was impossible, they told me to have everything moved by 2pm on Tuesday. This makes no sense and is very stressful. They should at least give me some time to remove my things.’
Ako, an asylum seeker from Kurdistan where he is a human rights activist and a journalist, encountered a similar situation but was allowed back into his flat after two nights sleeping at a temporary night shelter in the city’s West End. He said: ‘I can’t sleep and feel bad.’ He was subsequently given a key to the new lock and is now back in his original flat after he and his friends put pressure on Ypeople.
Mohamed from the Sudan has been without support for more than one year. His Cranhill flat’s lock was changed without notice last week. He said: ‘When I went to the Ypeople’s office they told me to come back the next day if I wanted my clothes. I stayed with a friend that night and am still waiting on my clothes being returned to me.’
A charity registered in Scotland, Ypeople’s mission is: ‘to provide support to vulnerable groups and individuals including the homeless, refugees, asylum seekers and young people to enable them to adapt to change and improve their quality of life.’
The chief executive, Joe Connolly, was asked for a statement on the lockout situation but his office referred this website’s enquiry to public relations company the Big Partnership and a response was still awaited some hours after the initial enquiry and subsequent reminders.
The charity’s last annual report states that it looked after 2200 ‘service users’ in 1150 properties and homes across the city. ‘We are committed to providing high quality services,’ is part of Ypeople’s mission along with the commitment to ‘recognise the right of individuals and treat them with respect.’
At Ypeople’s head office in Govan’s industrial estate at Moorpark, their certificates are on display from the Home Office as a ‘recognised Supplier 2011′ and for Investors in People and as a member of the Glasgow Social Care Providers’ Forum as well as Quality Scotland membership.
Jock Morris, Chairman of the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees said: ‘We know of at least four people over the weekend who have had the locks changed in their homes, without warning. We met Joe Connolly and Glasgow’s Social Work chiefs two weeks ago and were assured no locks would be changed without people being told well in advance and that the Social Work department would ‘bend over backwards’ to help anyone affected – so this behaviour is irresponsible. These people have not been honest with us.’
On Monday, Unity, a group supportive of asylum seekers, held a demonstration with the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees and others outside Brand Street where the UK BA offices are located in Govan. Later they moved to Ypeople’s offices a few streets away and set up their demonstration there.
Said a Unity spokesman: ‘Joe Connelly agreed to send a letter out to people explaining the processes and giving dates of when things will be taking place. No letter has been received by Mohamed, nor any of the individuals we’ve been in touch with. Once again, Y-People have failed to deal with vulnerable asylum seekers in a fair and honest manner. By using dirty tricks and giving unclear messages, they have created fear among the asylum seeking community. Some individuals, terrified by the threat of eviction, have gone into hiding,’ claimed the spokesman. He added that around 100 asylum seekers who have had their initial asylum claim refused but are unable or unwilling to return to their home lands, are still in Glasgow. ‘Many of these people are victim of administrative errors and poor decision making on the part of UKBA, yet are now facing imminent homelessness.
‘We’re calling on everyone concerned about this situation, to write to Y-People, expressing their concerns at their dishonest practices and asking them to adhere to due process,’ he said.
See their website for further information and contact details: www.unitycentreglasgow.org or email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Before protesting outside the Ypeople’s offices in Govan, the campaigners had stood in solidarity outside the UKBA offices nearby in Brand Street, Govan to support Angeline Mwafulirqa from Malawi as she signed in. She and her three children had been detained the previous time they signed in. They were taken to a detention centre in England and but, for the loud resistance of Angeline as she was being forced to board a plane back to Africa, the family would have been deported.
Said Angeline: ‘It is not safe for me to go back. I just screamed and made a lot of noise so that the airline – Kenya Airways – knew I would be boarding the plane against my will. I have been in the UK for six years. Two years ago I applied for asylum as I split up from my husband who is also from Malawi. My case for asylum has been refused but it is unsafe for me to go back to Malawi. Local custom there would require my children to be taken by their Father’s family.’
Harper Memorial Baptist Church in Kinning Park is buoyed up for a Titanic weekend starting Friday 13 April 2012. One of the 1500 people lost when the Titanic sank 100 years ago, was John Harper who had been a minister of the church in Glasgow. He was on his way to be a guest preacher in Chicago at the Moody Church. And the current preacher in that American church – Dr Erwin W. Lutzer – will be the guest speaker in Glasgow during the commemorative events and services.
To recognise John Harper’s sacrifice – he gave his life vest to another man – the congregation has planned a wide variety of events to which they invite anyone along.
Friday 13 April started with a school children’s holiday club. That evening a Christian rock band – Superhero – were scheduled to play their only UK gig. They’ve completed a European tour and are about to go on tour in the United States. That event is the only one where a door entry charge applies (£3)
On Saturday 14 – a commemorative service and re-dedication will be held in Craigton Cemetery, Cardonald at 2.30pm. There John Harper’s wife was buried and her headstone has details of his subsequent death when the Titanic sank after being holed by an iceberg on its maiden voyage to America. Dr Lutzer will conduct a service at the graveside and local Councillors Alistair Watson and Iris Gibson are expected to attend.
That evening – the 100th year to the date of the sinking of the Titanic – a service of praise will be held in the church which is located off Paisley Road West in the midst of a complex of modern houses. Among the contributions will be the choir ‘Father’s Song.’
Sunday services, morning and evening, will be conducted by Dr Lutzer with communion being celebrated in the morning and the Govan Salvation Army Band playing in the evening.
Resistance is growing to the fact that as many as 140 asylum seekers will be made destitute in Glasgow in the next few weeks.
This follows a change of provider of accommodation from Ypeople, a British based Christian charity, to Serco an international conglomerate providing essential services in more than 30 countries. In the UK it runs electronic tagging, video surveillance, nuclear weapons maintenance, several prisons and two immigration removal centres.
At a rally of around 200 people on Thursday 12 April 2012, at the foot of the Red Road flats which are home to many asylum seekers, speaker after speaker spoke out against the inhumanity of putting vulnerable people onto the streets.
Chair of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Glasgow, John Matthews, told the crowd: ‘In Europe in living memory Jews were first of all refused the right to work, then removed from their homes. I see Glasgow going that way more and more with the asylum seekers. Asylum is a right under the United Nations Convention so don’t be put off by this struggle.’ The NUJ is the first trades union to count journalists who are seeking asylum, as full members of the union and it is encouraging other trades unions to do the same.
Jim Main of UNISON said that Ypeople’s proposal to throw out asylum seekers from their accommodation was ‘outrageous.’ He went on: ‘We will fight this through every trades unions branch. This is a civil emergency and we must demonstrate to prevent this happening. We must show we are a Glasgow that cares. Everyone must ask questions of people in power.’
Speaking as a Justice and Peace campaigner for the Catholic church, Carol Clarke stated: ‘People must be given human dignity and that means a roof over their head.’
College lecturer, Barrie Levine, praised the Scottish Government for its ‘excellent support.’ Both First Minister Alex Salmond and his Deputy Nicola Sturgeon had sent apologies and messages of support to the rally organisers. Said Barrie: ‘That is excellent, but I want to see Alex Salmond make representation to the UK Government which controls UK Borders Agency (UKBA) and I want to see him fully support our protests and make sure civilised values are brought into play. The Big Society should be called the Sick Society. It is a scandal that people are being made destitute and put onto the street. Make no mistake, Serco has this £175 million contract. But the Ypeople’s Board should hang their heads in shame. There is no need to evict anyone right now.’
In her address to the crowd, SNP MSP, Sandra White, said: ‘we have proposed practical ways forward. The Ypeople have a window of opportunity as they do not need to evict anyone till November. We have asked the Scottish Parliament Secretary for External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, to make our views known at Westminster. We are asking for the people who cannot be returned to places like Iran, Iraq and Somali because of wars, to be granted refugee status.’
Afro-Caribbean centre organiser Graham Campbell said: ‘The Ypeople Board should not be allowed to do this. It is disgusting. We should all tell them that in writing. The Afro-Caribbean Centre charity is refusing to work with Ypeople till it withdraws the threat of making destitute asylum seekers, homeless. It is a UK government issue and we must demand it be stopped.’
In a passionate speech, Angela McCormick of the Stop the War Coalition, declared: ‘We are here today to show Serco, Ypeople, Glasgow City Council, and everyone else that we will stand with those who have fled oppression – usually war. The link between this Coalition and the asylum seekers is that many of them have fled from war zones, bombs, missiles and weapons of destruction. They have come here seeking sanctuary. But how do we treat them? They are made destitute, kept in poverty and now being forced out of their homes.’ She added: ‘I believe we are the sensible majority. We do not want this to happen. Remember the people who fuelled the wars which caused the asylum seekers to flee in the first instance are the very people who make money from selling the missles and weapons of war.’
Organised by the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, master of ceremonies, Jock Morris commented: ‘We want to send a statement to the UK Government and the Scottish Government saying lound and clear – refugees and asylum seekers are WELCOME HERE.’ On a show of hands practically everyone in the crowd agreed with the statement.
‘We are now organising another, bigger rally at the STUC in Woodlands Road, on Tuesday 17 April 2012 to decide on the best way forward, together,’ said Margaret Wood of the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees. Everyone concerned about this issue is invited.’
Currently around half a dozen destitute asylum seekers are given overnight accommodation each night in a safe, warm place, with an evening meal, a full breakfast and a takeaway lunch pack. But that number is expected to increase dramatically as soon as Ypeople start evicting asylum seekers.
The Harper Memorial Baptist Church in Kinning Park Glasgow, is preparing for a mega weekend starting on Friday 13 April through till Sunday 15 April.
The church was named after Pastor John Harper who had grown it in the early 1900s and who was one of the 1500 people drowned when the Titanic sank.
The Glasgow Harper Memorial Baptist Church has a school children’s holiday club running from 10.30am till 12.30am on Friday 13.
That evening the Christian rock band ‘Superhero’ will play on their single UK gig before they head for America. There is a £3 ticket for this gig. tel: 01698 275343 or email@example.com/cgi-bin/newinto.pl?=s11
On Saturday 14 April at 2.30pm, a memorial and redidication service will be held in Craigton Cemetery Cardonald. The wife of John Harper is buried there and his sacrifice aboard the Titanic is recorded on her headstone. The service will be conducted by Dr Erwin W. Lutzer of Moody Church in Chicago. It was to that church that John Harper was travelling when the vessel sank.
On Saturday evening at 7.30pm Dr Lutzer will preach and remember the events of exactly 100 years ago. Music will be provided by Father’s Song and a play about John Harper’s life will be presented for the first time.
On Sunday 15 April at 11am, the regular morning service will have Dr Lutzer as their guest speaker and communion will be celebrated.
The evening service on Sunday will feature Govan Salvation Army Band along with Dr Lutzer.
Thursday 8 March 2012
Event: Day Workshop: Taize – Singing for Life.
Facilitator: Rev Jenny Williams.
Venue: Meeting Room, Quaker Meeting House, 7 Victoria Terrace, Edinburgh, EH1 2JL.
Time: Registration: 9.30am-10am. Workshop: 10am-4.30pm.
Event Description: Simple repetitive songs from the ecumenical Christian community are a way to experience unity – with one another and with the Divine. Easy to learn, great to sing with others. The focus of the day will be the experience of singing, silence and sharing which mirrors the way of life in the community itself in France. Information about the community, its history, purpose and influence will be woven through in response to the interests of participants.
Led by Rev Jenny Williams who lived in the Taize Community (www.taize.fr) for 18 months, an experience which both expanded her understanding of Christianity and led to a greater appreciation of other world religions. “The experience of living in the ecumenical Christian community of Taize in my mid-twenties changed my life. There I learnt a meditative form of prayer; encountered singing as transformal; met people from all over the world. In this workshop I hope to share my passion and gratefulness for this community that has moulded my spiritual life and practice.”
Cost: £25/£20 (Concessions). For a Registration Form:
Contact: Neill Walker, firstname.lastname@example.org, 0131 331 4469.
Arts festival LENTFEST was blessed with high powered backers at its launch on Tuesday 21 February, including the Vatican’s Culture Cardinal, Gianfranco Ravasi.
Started by Archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti ten years ago as he took office, Lentfest has grown to be a major source of creative Christian endeavour across the city from just before the start of Lent till after Easter. It involves all three universities and churches in every part of the Archdiocese.
Said Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the launch: ‘Lentfest helps mutual awareness and respect. It confirms Glasgow as the Scottish Cultural Capital and the city can be extremely proud of this celebration of faith through the arts.’ On behalf of the University of Glasgow, Vice Principal Professor Graham Caie praised the ‘terrific programme of music and drama’ and reminded the large audience gathered in the University’s Memorial Chapel, that the University had been founded in 1451 by Pope Nicholas V, then head of the Catholic Church.
Bailie John McLaughlin brought greetings and good wishes from Glasgow’s Lord Provost, Bob Winter and said: ‘We hope Lentfest will continue to play an important part in the cultural life of the city and of the Archdiocese. The Catholic Church and the wider Christian community play a vital role in this city.’
Festival Director Stephen Callaghan who said he ‘fixed the nuts and bolts’ admitted he felt humbled by the gathering for this year’s launch. He said: ‘It is hard not to be emotional about the great community of good will towards Lentfest.’ After reading out the letter of support from Cardinal Ravasi he said: ‘Never in my wildest dreams did I think we’d receive such endorsement. It is wonderful to have this. But it is also wonderful to have the card with good wishes from a local Father who has nourished Lentfest from the beginning.’
The programme includes talks on the influence of Christian faith set against the backdrop of the Art Exhibition in the University Memorial Chapel which has work from Peter Howson, Richard Demarco, Jolomo (John Lowrie Morrison) among many other prominent artists. There will be music ranging from Scotland’s pre-eminent composer, James MacMillan’s work ‘Why is this night different?’ with the composer, himself, introducing it – to The Hound of Heaven, a six song cycle for solo tenor and piano and Alessandra Pompili playing Franz Liszt’s score of the Way of the Cross with the projection of pictures that inspired its composition.
The children of St Joseph’s Primary School in Faifley, Clydebank sang at the launch to highlight the appeal for 1000 people to assemble at 7pm on Monday 19 March in St Margaret’s church Clydebank and St Anne’s in Dennistoun to pray, sing and laugh together to bring spiritual hope to communities.
The highlight of this year’s Lentfest will be an exhibition of the Stations of the Cross and Resurrection, as well a production of the Martyrdom of St. John Ogilvie, Scotland’s martyr who was hanged at Glasgow Cross in 1615. Written by StephenCallaghan, Lentfest director, he will have to play the main character because the actor preparing to do that, has had to drop out of the production. The drama will be seen in eleven venues across the city.
For full details of Lentfest see website: www.agap.org.ukwhich is the Archdiocese of Glasgow’s Arts Project.
A solid silver medal, missing for 30 years, has been found and returned to rightful owners – the 1st Glasgow Boys’ Brigade Company.
The Squad Challenge medal is the oldest medal ever made for a Boys’ Brigade company and recently turned up in a jiffy bag posted to the BB Scottish Headquarters in Carronvale House, Larbert.
It was formally handed back to the 1st BB company by Bill Stevenson, Director for the Christian based, youth organisation.
Said Bill: “This really is a remarkable story – it was quite astounding to see the oldest ever medal in the BB just appear in a jiffy envelope one morning. It was so good to be able to return it to the 1st Glasgow Company.”
Allan Gow, Captain of the 1st Glasgow BB Company said: “We believe the medal was either stolen or went missing in the 1980s. We were all just amazed and delighted to see it once again; everyone thought it had been lost forever.”
Such was the importance of the medal, the Company had commissioned a replica in 1988. With the return of the original, Sergeant Bobby Watt became the first boy in the 1st Glasgow’s 128 year history to wear two Squad Challenge Medals, the replica and the original.
As the name suggests the 1st Glasgow Boys’ Brigade Company was the very first company in the world and was founded by Sir William Alexander Smith in 1883. The silver medal dates from 1885, and features in some old Brigade photographs.
Nayyer Umeed ran in this year’s Glasgow’s Great Scottish Run to raise awareness of a minority in his homeland who are being persecuted. Nayyer is a Pakistani Christian. He believes that his family in Pakistan are in danger following an increase in what he sees as groundless violence toward Pakistan’s Christian population.
His story is common in his homeland but unheard here. However, on Saturday 2 October CHRISTIANS in MINORITY PLACES is a conference at Findlay Memorial Church on 56 Clarendon Place, St Georges Cross. Those from many denominations will hear Christians tell their tales of faith based persecution. Just go along to the church 2-5pm or 7-9pm.