Hey everyone! I recently had the INCREDIBLE opportunity to speak to a group of wonderful Canadian students and Member Parliaments at a Parliamentary Luncheon during the National Student Forum in Ottawa (our nation's capital)! I can't even begin to express what an honor it was not only being able to share my testimony with them but to be able to spend time with these people - many of whom I would now gladly consider friends.
So clearly the Pakistani in me had so much more to share than time permitted so I did cut it a bit short so as to avoid hearing the snores of my gracious audience! But here it is in full; enjoy!
Good afternoon everyone,
First off I want to thank the Student Forum for giving me this amazing opportunity to speak with all you accomplished people! Thanks especially to MP David Anderson, and the lovely Ms. Joycelin Ng.
I’m sure you’ll all agree that it’s been a wonderful experience this far and I’m looking forward to the rest of the forum!
Before I begin I wanted to attest to why I believe I am here speaking to you all today. When I was younger I always wanted God to use me and give me lots of opportunities to do something positive in this world. It was almost a demand from me to God – I wanted so badly to know what His plan was for me, to show me what I was supposed to do; that was when my mother would remind me to remain humble and wait on the Lord – to let the spirit simmer and work in me and that when it was time -- I would know it. Now that I’m older I’ve finally gained a bit of wisdom and learned to wait but to my surprise – and a realization of all that I don’t know, it’s now when God’s thrown me out here and said “You are ready now.” So thank God for that and for how He’s working in my life – and for bringing me here to share my testimony with all of you!
I was invited today to share some of my experience about my life as a Conservative Christian blogger, and as an activist for religious freedom here in Canada and in my country of heritage - Pakistan; but when I thought about it, what I really wanted to do is encourage you all and give you a couple of reminders – beginning with opportunity.
Recently I had the opportunity to be on TV; on a show some of you might have heard of The Arena with Michael Coren on Sun News Network – if you haven’t seen it you really must! The opportunity was fabulous; but being a perfectionist I am still a bit put off by the fact that I got the terrorist group Al Qaeda mixed up with the terrorist group Pakistani Taliban, big faux pas in the news world; and I am sure that with the efforts they put in that they really like to get credit for their own “accomplishments”. So I’ll try to keep myself on track and not confuse anything I’d like to say here.
When I was very young, my mother – a nurse educator in Pakistan – had the opportunity to come and study here in Canada, at McMaster University in her field of work. My father was a Major in the Pakistani army at that time, and when my parents realized what coming to Canada could mean for their family, for their daughter – me, they packed up what little they could transport and immigrated here with me. From a life of what many would see as financial ease, to a life of near impoverishment – but always with the foresight and knowledge that here in Canada, I would be able to excel without the kind of prejudice I would face in Pakistan as a CHRISTIAN woman.
In Pakistan - as I shared with some of you earlier and as many of you already know: religious freedom is literally a foreign concept. From the oppressive use of the Sharia Law that governs it, to the politically driven religious masses that control it – Pakistan is the beloved and feared home of tens of millions of Christians, Ahmadi, Hindus, Sikhs and other religious groups.
In a gist, this is what I blog about – what I fight against, and who I fight for.
For me, every Christian child, woman or man that dies in Pakistan because of this persecution deserves to have their story told. Every impoverished community that has no hope of developing – of giving their children equal opportunity at education, jobs, and a bright future deserves a voice.
So — getting back to opportunity;
Having the chance to grow up here in Canada I count myself fortunate to never have wasted a chance for unique experiences – I’ve worked as everything from babysitter, lifeguard and PR rep-- for airlines, gas stations and Kentucky Fried Chicken --and volunteered just about wherever I could – in fact as a Med student I had the opportunity to volunteer and shadow a Doctor in Pakistan, not too long ago --- this was in a small clinic in a poor area of the city of Karachi; one evening at a house call we came to the aid of a local boy who was severely dehydrated and weak and the Dr. decided that he would put the boy on an IV at home to get some fluid into him. After prepping the boys arm, and promptly dropping the IV needle on the dusty floor the good Dr. cited the 30 second rule and popped the needle into the boys arm – and it didn’t take years of medical education that I’ve had now for me to know that wasn’t exactly the right move. A small example but it’s a microscopic look at how quality of life and care in Pakistan has degenerated overall and for minority populations it’s really taken a turn for the worst.
After my first year of undergrad in Nursing I decided that I would collect my own and some of my peers’ first year texts to donate to a teaching hospital in Pakistan called United Christian Hospital; and here’s where I saw a textbook case of how the way of life and opportunities for Christians has deteriorated. The hospital in its hay days was the best in Pakistan – With patients like movie stars and elite politicians. It’s now a complete wreck. Windows shattered, litter gathering in every corner – the surgical ward literally had backed up sewage flowing into it – and the stench of human waste and blood was beyond anything I could even describe to you all, imagine working or LEARNING in THAT environment.
The only patient in the entire hospital when I visited was an unfortunate soul in Emerge who had the bad luck of getting hit by a car right in front of the hospital.
This hospital’s deterioration can be seen in many other Christian institutions that have been directly affected by state-sponsored persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan – through the nationalization of Christian institutions that took place in the 1970s that basically took complete control over education and healthcare – effectively disabling religious minority populations from acquiring equal access to education and employment in those fields. At that time and even today, Christian institutions are the best in Pakistan for education and care – a fact that personally I feel is directly related to the value system that those institutions were initially based on.
But here I am in Canada, living an extremely blessed life and here is where I saw my opportunity not only to give back here – but to influence the lives of people back in the old country.
So I started blogging, firstly because I wanted to reach my own cultural community and specifically new immigrants here in Canada. I wanted to show them what I knew about life as a Christian in Canada; what I had learned to embrace from the culture here – and how I balanced that with the values of my culture of heritage. It’s not an easy adjustment to make for many. What I learned from my first couple of blogs was that I got people’s attention – some even related to me. And then in my local church – people started learning more about Pakistani Christian issues, persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan – and soon I was blogging about the issue as it was being dealt with in our federal government. The audience grew, the blogs grew bolder, and I became fearless to share – and here I am standing in front of you all today, not to tell you one person can make a difference, because that is something that here in Canada we see all around us – but to remind you that you have the right to make a difference and as people in positions of influence it is a right that we must not take lightly.
We enjoy freedom and rights that where I come from people die for even today.
In John 15, the bible tells us that before His crucifixion Jesus had just led his disciples out of the Upper room and towards Gethsemane – and if you can imagine a man that knew his death was eminent what does one say in that moment – what do we think of? I remember when my grandmother was passing away and how in her last moments she was trying to reconcile her relationships and give words of comfort to us all trying to explain how much she loved us – Jesus words always strike me as so powerful and holy in those moments. Jesus talks about the grape vine, its branches and its fruit. The branches and fruit cannot exist without the vine. Jesus gives us a basic agricultural lesson here that really shows us what our purpose is here on this earth -- to bear fruit. Jesus is our vine, and we are the branches – He tells us that branches that do not stay with the vine have no fruit – but through the process of pruning; one that Thanh Campbell pointed out in yesterday’s forum can be an unpleasant process for us at times – abandoning our Will to Gods allows us to be pruned and as the bible says we bear fruit – and have the opportunity to bear more fruit – and when we really give it all up the opportunity to bear much fruit.
Jesus then went on from there to tell us that He loves us so much and that we must love one another – we must support each other in our growth as Christians and amazingly He also goes on to say that we must remain in God’s love ourselves – and if we keep his commands that is how we remain in His love.
Our lives are not only accountable to our families, organizations, political affiliations and each other but they are accountable to our Creator; and I encourage everyone today to keep remembering that as we make those vital decisions in life our workplaces and schools – keep asking God where and how and when we can really be used for the biggest impact because I believe God WANTS us to have the BIGGEST impact.
As Christians in Canada we are quite literally the light of the world – a city on a hill that has the opportunity to shine out into every corner and show what God’s love to others – and to each other; our persecuted brothers and sisters. Where I come from at times there’s almost a sense of abandonment that many Christians feel from the outside church. The bible tells us to pray for them as though we are bound with them – has anyone here been bound in persecution the likes of which can be seen in places like Pakistan? I know I haven’t – but I have personally felt the effects that that persecution has on families and its generational repercussions.
I thank God at this time in my life that I’ve been able to see such a huge change in our visions as Canadians especially with this government; and for the first time I see my country as a whole reaching out to persecuted religious minorities and specifically thank everyone here for also recognize the plight of my own community and for being such a huge support to us. I’m also looking forward in the near future to seeing Canadians of Pakistani Christian heritage taking a bigger role in Canada as maybe senators, MPs or through other crown appointments.
So just to recap here’s my reminder to you all go after your opportunities remember your purpose and who you’re accountable to and just keep seeking God’s guidance when you’re out there making decisions that influence us all. Stay with the vine. Thank you.