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
Glasgow Central Mosque will be among several which will be honoured next week in Parliament. They each raised massive sums quickly to help the most pressing humanitarian needs in 2010 when the floods hit Pakistan.
His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has sent his personal thanks to each mosque which answered the call to action and contributed to the Pakistan Recovery Fund (PRF) and they will be presented with a limited edition medal produced by the Queen’s own mint makers. The Rt Hon Sadiq Khan MP will host the ceremony in the House of Commons on Wednesday 8 February and the medals will be presented by HRH’s senior representative and Chairman of the PRF, Mr John O’Brien.
MP Khan is the first cabinet member of Pakistani descent. He said: ‘The work done by the Pakistan Recovery Fund has been quite simply incredible. I travelled to some of the flood-affected areas and met dozens of victims who had lost friends, family members and their livelihoods. I am extremely proud of the hope the British public gave to thousands of people through such generous donations. Many people feared that the tough economic climate would limit the amount donated to the Pakistan Recovery Fund, but we saw just the opposite – despite the difficult times the British public faces at home, they haven’t lost their sense of humanity.’
The fund was convened by the British Asian Trust which is one of Prince’s charities. It has been operating with local partners in the Punjab and the Sindh regions to provide homes, education, health support and livelihoods to those who lost all. Westminster MP Anas Sarwar who was elected for Glasgow Central seat and followed in the footsteps of his father Mohammad Sarwar who was the first Muslim MP at Westminster said: ‘As a member of the House of Commons International Development Committee, I saw the devastating effect the floods had. In the weeks and months that followed, I also saw the tremendous generosity of the British people – especially those from the British Pakistani and British Muslim communities. They worked tirelessly to raise funds and send emergency supplies to help the victims of the floods. The Pakistan Recovery Fund is a fantastic initiative led by HRH to support the people of Pakistan after the greatest natural disaster ever to have hit that country.It is a huge honour and privilege for the organisations and the individuals involved – including Madrasa Taleem ul Islam from my own constituency – to have their efforts recognised in this way.’
A spokesman for Madrasa Taleem ul Islam said: We had collected some donations before this appeal but decided to make another appeal to join the efforts of HRH. We may not feel the heat of hunger or homelessness in the UK, but the flood in Pakistan was devastating. We thought we had to try again to collect a little more. So we made another request to worshippers. We are sure that even this little help will make a big difference to the people affected by the flood. We are committed to providing support to people in natural disasters and always stand with other people when needed.’
by Elyas Hussain
A retired Glasgow police officer has recently raised £40,000 for a charity caring for abandoned girls in India.
For some years, popular community and race relations officer Tom Harrigan, MBE, has been working closely with managing trustee Bibi Prakash Kaur (Bibi Ji), the founder of Unique Home for Girls in the Punjab.
After raising the £40,000 in a series of events last year, he took the money to India where the charity had decided to use it to build a new, purpose-designed home for the girls and the staff.
On his return Tom said: ‘I have supported the home for years and have now set up a registered charity in the UK. This is called Friends of Unique Home for Girls and the aim is not only to raise money but also to raise the charity’s profile here.
He added: “From my first visit, I have been impressed and humbled by the hope offered to the most vulnerable people in society – new-born babies and young girls who had been abandoned. All the staff there really care and are committed. They do an amazing job bring up their charges. It was a great privilege for me to raise £40,000 and I’m very happy it will be used for a new building for the children and staff.”
Tom also assists with the charity, Glasgow the Caring City,
In India little girls are abandoned for cultural reasons or because many poverty-stricken parents see them as a burden. Unique Home for Girls provides shelter and support and raises the girls to be healthy, self -respecting citizens. As well as a roof over their head and the basic necessities, the charity gives the girls an education at recognised schools, colleges and higher education establishments.
Currently, there are 56 girls living at the home. An additional 65 infants have been left in the baby cradle at the door of the premises. The centre was set up in 1933 by the Bhai Ghanayya Ji charitable Trust. While some of the girls get married and leave, there are a few like ‘Susie’ who have chosen to stay on and give their services voluntarily to the Home in appreciation of their up bringing.
To make a donation or for more information about the Unique Homes for Girls visit their website –www.uniquehomesforgirls.co.uk
Following the devastating floods in Pakistan, a humanitarian effort has been launched in Glasgow by politicians and charities for an immediate £550,000 from Scotland, for relief aid and long term re-building.
Initially, £50,000 is needed to transport, store and deliver antibiotic, anti-virus, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory medicines worth £2 million which have been donated by International Health Partners (http://www.ihpuk.org/) as well as 10,000 sterilising tablets, 500 tubs of sterilising hand gels and 4,500
Long term, funding of £500,000 would enable at least 200 family houses to be built in Punjab. The capital of that area, Lahore, is twinned with Glasgow therefore the new community will be called ‘Glasgow Village’.
Glasgow Central MP Anas Sarwar said: ‘Fourteen million people have been affected by this disaster and two million are homeless and more than 2000 have, sadly, lost their lives.
“We have seen a tremendous UK-wide response to this tragedy. Now we want to send out a strong message that Glasgow and Scotland support the people of Pakistan.
‘That’s why we’re bringing together charities, organisations and individuals who will work together in a co-ordinated way to ensure we are delivering the strongest possible response.
‘Immediate relief will be provided and we’re grateful to International Health Partners and Scottish Water. We also want to send the message that we will not forget Pakistan when the waters subside because we know that this tragedy will affect the people there for months and years to come.’
Council leader, Gordon Matheson said: ‘Glasgow at its best is a caring city. We are a compassionate people. We are also an international city. Glasgow City Council stands shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in Pakistan at this terrible time. I commit this administration to work alongside this forum as an active supporter and friend – not just today and in the weeks ahead but in the months and years ahead.’
Lord Provost Bob Winter said: ‘It’s an honour and a privilege to be part of this effort to help the people of Pakistan in their time of need. The Pakistani community has made a phenomenal contribution to Glasgow. Marrying that resource with the resources of this great city is something that I can do to make a sustained contribution to the relief effort over a prolonged period.’
The Consul General of Pakistan, Shahryar Khan, said: ‘This disaster has affected fourteen million people and is spread over 132,000 square kilometres. It will take a long time for the country to recover.
‘The government of Pakistan is actively seeking help and I’m pleased that the people of Glasgow and Scotland have pledged assistance.’
Former MP Mohammed Sarwar, whose charity ‘UCare Foundation’ is co-ordinating Scotland’s Response, said: ‘We are very lucky at this time of great disaster to have the support of the caring people of this city. Donations to this appeal will provide medicines and shelter for hundreds of homeless families in Pakistan. Please continue to donate generously so that the victims of this horrible tragedy can be given some help.’
Scotland’s Response is backed by several organisations including:
UCare Foundation, The Islamic Centre, Glasgow Central Mosque, Scottish Asian Network, Glasgow Caring City, Masjid Khizra.
To donate or for more information or to volunteer help, contact: UCare Foundation, 320 Victoria Road,
Glasgow G42 7RP. Telephone: 0141 423 4242 or email:firstname.lastname@example.org
The new Ucare charity shop in Govanhill, which manages and raises money for Rajana and Chichawatni Foundation hospitals in Pakistan, was opened by Lord Provost Bob Winters recently.
The Lord Provost cut a ribbon outside the shop and said: ‘This charity does amazing work in providing cheap healthcare. For those who cannot afford to pay, it is free.
‘Many lives have been saved as a result. I hope the shop will raise even more money for the hospitals. I am happy to support this project and the work it does.’
Also in attendance were Ucare Foundation committee members including Mohammad Sarwar, the MP for Glasgow Central, who is chairman of Rajana Foundation Hospital.
Rajana was set up in 2005 after Mr Sarwar visited Pakistan, where lack of affordable healthcare in rural areas is a major public health concern.
Rajana hospital is in Punjab, at the junction of highways to four major towns – Pir Mahal, Toba Tek Singh, Kamalia and Sumundari.
It has more than 120 staff and 65 beds. Since its establishment, it has dealt with 142,888 patients, carried out 3576 operations and costs £250,000 every year to run.
Chichawatni was set up 2008, and has 45 beds and 65 staff. Staff treat 5,000 patients a month and the hospital costs £120,000 every year to run.
Both hospitals have 24/7 accident and emergency cover, ambulances and pharmacies.
Mr Sarwar said: ‘I would like to say a big thank-you to everybody who has worked really hard to open the shop, especially the committee members.
‘The aim of the shop is to raise money for both hospitals and to raise awareness of the invaluable work that we do. As people cannot afford to pay anything, it is subsidised and this includes operations, medications and any other treatments for any type of illnesses.’
The shop took two months to open, has two staff members and 20 volunteers.
The shop manager at 320 Victoria Road is Salman Siddique, who told the LOCAL NEWS: ‘We are really delighted to have the shop open, finally. It has been really hard work. Before we opened we had received many donations. We will continue to welcome more from members of the public.’