Friday, June 29, 2012

Words from England: Asif Mall, Chairperson Pakistan Minorities Rights Organization (PMRO UK)

Asif Mall speaking at a Manchester memorial service; just five weeks after the assassination of former Minister for Minorities Pakistan, Shahbaz Bhatti. Mall beautifully exposes the issues that stemmed from the creation of Pakistan to today for the nation, and the Pakistani Christian community -- issues that have literally led up to the martyrdom of Shahbaz Bhatti, and that of many other Pakistani citizens who struggle to oppose them.

A must watch, especially for my Canadian readers who would like to know the historical point of view of Pakistan's problems.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

PC Interview with Sunny Gill, Pakistani Christian Photo Journalist

Anyone keeping up with Pakistani Christian news in the past few months has definitely seen this young photo journalist’s work. From his coverage of the funerals of a Christian air hostess that was killed recently in a deadly plane crash, and Pakistani hero Cecil Chaudhry -- to his work alongside two documentary filmmakers raising awareness about the Christian community; many of us have come across his photos, and some may have seen his YouTube videos but that begs the question – who IS he?

Well, he definitely piqued my interest anyhow, which is why The PC Inquirer got in touch with Sunny Gill to bring you an exclusive interview about this amazing 25 year old Pakistani Christian.

Q. So Sunny Gill, where were you born and raised?
A. I was born in Karachi and was raised there as well; I have had all of my education in Karachi. I am from a middle class family; my father was working in a hotel line. We are five siblings, including me and we all live together in a rented home with my parents. I am the youngest in my family.

Q. Photo journalism is a very unique occupation for a Pakistani Christian – how did you learn your trade? Did you go to school for it?
A. Actually I learn because I am passionate about it, and through experience. I have done my associate engineering in automobile engineering.

Q. Wonderful! So tell me a little bit about your faith.
A. I am Roman Catholic by practice, but I don’t believe in denomination. Denominations, I think are making distances between people and today if our Christian people around the globe are weak it has a lot to do with the disjoint that the body of Christ has due to denominations.

Q. So we touched on your photo journalism earlier but tell me, how did you start?
A. As I said, photography is my passion. When I purchased my first camera and started taking pictures of nature I realized that I clearly had a skill – and I should use it for God’s work. I wanted to cover and share my people’s pain as well. The Bible says: “Speak up for those who cannot speak themselves” and for me, photography is my voice. Through pictures I can convey my message – in one picture it’s possible to tell a whole story.

That’s not to say it’s always been easy. Because of my work I have been threatened by extremist groups – specifically for my coverage of the case of Magdeline Ashraf; who is a Christian nurse who was raped by a Muslim doctor in 2010.

Sunny Gill's Photography for World Day Against Child Labour, June 12.
Q. That is quite scary, but I am glad to see how determined you are to keep going! Are you working alone? Or do you work with any organizations/newsgroups?
A. I started working as correspondent for several online international news groups in 2009, when I was working in a call center. Many of my articles are still available online, with news and pictures. I’m also a part of Union Catholic Asian News (UCAN).

Q. Tell us about some of your past projects.
A. I love photography and videography. I’ve made many documentaries, especially on persecuted Christians because it’s often difficult for people on the outside to reach them.

Currently I am not working with any NGOs but at the time of the floods in Pakistan I worked alongside many international NGOs who would come to distribute food, clothes, etc. to affected people.

Q. Is there anything that you are currently working on that you’d like to share with us?
A. Well I’d like to make a video documentary on Christians role in the field of education. Everyone that has been educated in missionary schools and that includes a very large population here in Pakistan – they all know that after partition only Parsi and Christian institutions were in Pakistan to educate everyone. It’s a bitter truth for those who are anti-Christian but the Pakistani Christian community has been undoubtedly significant in the fields of medicine and education.

Q. What are your goals with your work?
A. I’d love to make this video documentary and many more and these days people tend to respond better to a higher quality product – so I will keep learning and extending my skills. Hopefully at some point I would like to get better equipment as well like an HD video camera.

Q. How can people get in touch with you and support your work?
A. I’m running a Christian page/forum on Facebook called Christians in Pakistan where I share Christian issues and promote events and festivals that our community is organizing in Pakistan.

It’s not really about supporting me, although I do appreciate support very much – but I want people who are living abroad to continue to help their brothers and sisters here in Pakistan like I see other religious groups doing. Ahmadi and Agha Khani Muslims have their own problems with discrimination and such but I can see how their people have banded together to support each other, I just want the same for my own.

I’m an eye witness to a case where a man whose concern for his wife’s delivery costs grew too much for them and he went from place to place, person to person asking for help – but there was no one there for him. When it came closer to the date he felt so helpless and committed robbery, the man was caught and was arrested by the police and is still in jail. No Christian here or there could help him with something that for many is a nominal cost.

I just want our people to help each other. I’ve seen so many empty vessels on Facebook and other social networking sites that make a lot of noise but when it comes to practical support they practically hide under their beds.

Well that is really food for thought, thank you so much for sharing your experiences and encouraging others to believe when the Bible tells us “faith without action is dead!”

**If anyone is interested in getting in touch with Sunny Gill for news or to support his work please feel free to visit his Facebook page, or contact him directly at**

MUST SEE: Brian Lilley Interviews Glenn Beck in Toronto, Canada -- #IStandWithIsrael

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

PC Interview - Illuminate Founder: Huma Christina Yousif.

Huma Christina Yousif, Founder and President of Illuminate
In her tender young adult years, at just twenty-five years old Huma Christina Yousif has completely immersed herself in God's purpose for her life. Living with the motto that “if you try just a little bit harder, and believe just a little bit stronger – you can make change,” Huma is making change in her life and for the lives of her sisters in Christ.

Although Huma was born into a Pakistani family that originates from the city of Faislabad – she was born and raised in the wealthy Middle Eastern country of Bahrain. She accepted Jesus in her life at age eight, abandoning herself to His service. Huma says, “The church I went to was a very spiritually powerful church and getting to know the Lord so personally in my life made it my passionate desire to serve Him even at a young age like that.” At age twelve, she moved with her family to Islamabad, Pakistan.

Another unique fact about Huma? She is the niece of the well-known and well respected former Minister of Minorities Pakistan, Shahbaz Bhatti – who was assassinated in March of 2011 by Pakistani Taaliban for his firm unwaivering stand against the draconian Blasphemy Laws of Pakistan. Huma admits that Bhatti has been one of her greatest inspirations and a lifelong example to her and many others of how God can use a single person to do big things. From her move to Islamabad til his assassination, Huma watched her uncle’s struggle for the Christians and all religious minorities of Pakistan; something that she too has taken up as her own personal mission.
Former Minister for Minorities Pakista, martyr Shahbaz Bhatti.
In her most recent project, Huma is the founder and president of a multifaceted social networking and empowerment project for Christian girls in Pakistan called “Illuminate”.

The PCInquirer recently had the opportunity to interview this wonderful young woman and talk to her about her latest project and her future goals:

Q. What is Illuminate?
A. It’s an initiative that I have taken in response to the growing concern of Pakistani Christian girls being discriminated in everyday life, facing persecution and forceful conversions and a lack of awareness of the rapidly changing world. All of these conditions contribute to a decline in girls’ educational performance, health, and self-esteem; and invariably lead to lower life expectations for far too many Christian girls.

Illuminate is the starting point on a social change continuum that includes preventing violence against Christian girls in Pakistan, promoting economic self-sufficiency, and eliminating all other oppressive limits placed on the lives of girls. We have witnessed over the years, when girls develop a healthy self-image and the skills to protect themselves as pre-adolescents and adolescents, they are less likely to be abused or discriminated against.

This innovative project includes leadership development, creative and cultural expression, physical activity, exposure, personal defense and direct social networking. Illuminate members will learn about healthy choices and how to take control of their own lives, and in doing so become confident, informed, and powerful young women illuminating a path for other Christian girls and young women.

Q. How did you come up with the idea for Illuminate?
A. It was not an idea for me really it was a passion that turned into Illuminate; from my own personal experiences and the experiences that other Christians around me went through every day in Pakistan.

The Women in Huma's Life: Huma stands with her mother Jacqueline (sister of Shahbaz Bhatti), behind Huma's younger sister Jennifer and their grandmother Martha Bhatti (mother of Shahbaz Bhatti)
Q. Why did you think that this would be a beneficial project for you to start?
A. Well, to quote a brilliant woman Abigail Adams, “If we mean to have heroes, statesmen and philosophers, we should have learned women.”

As far as I am concerned seeing girls become empowered, become leaders where ever they go would really be a blessing to me – knowing that I used my God given knowledge, passion and energy in the process. And it’s not just about women, but I want to see a better community for Christian families and influence other minorities in Pakistan! When we will have strong and educated sisters, daughters and mothers our community will surely see a better future.

Q. Have you encountered any difficulties in starting Illuminate?
A. Yes, it is difficult for girls to come out of the shadows and come out in the mainstream and face challenges that they would rather ignore. But even though there is hesitation – there has still been a surprisingly positive response so far!

Q. Tell me about what Illuminate as a project entails – What are the specific activities/support you are providing through it?
A. We will be providing career counseling, personality development workshops, we will have parents and daughter meeting in which we help ease generation gaps, and we will also be training in self-defense. We also will provide scholarships to students in need.

Q. How far along have you gotten with getting Illuminate up and running?
A. So far we have launched it in Lahore; we are focusing one city at a time. We are also in process of registering the organization in Pakistan to legitimize it and make it easier for us to be able to organize/fund.

Q. This is a really complex project! Who is supporting you with this?
A. Right now I am mainly working on it by myself, along with four representatives that are located in four colleges in Lahore; but I am receiving lots of moral support and prayers from some friends!

Q. That’s quite courageous of you, but you will need more support in the future I’m sure, how can other people support you?
A. For now the most valuable thing anyone can do is pray for me and pray for God to work through Illuminate. But I’m always looking for new ideas and advice; that is always welcome! I’d also love if people would spread the word to friends and family and anyone who would be interested in this project.

Q. What about funding? Does Illuminate require any financial support?
A. Since we hope to create a revival our community by building our girls, finances will obviously play a major role. I am setting up a board here in Canada with other like-minded individuals and we’re going to be doing some fundraising projects and raising awareness here. But honestly, if anyone would like to contribute to this project I would gratefully accept! Nothing comes free in this world.

Q. What other organizations or projects are you involved in?
A. I am a part of some other projects with friends, obviously ready to be used in any way God sees fit! I have initiated a forum through which young leaders from different Pakistani Christian organizations and churches worldwide can unite and discuss different issues that they face as they work with the community and seek advice on how to resolve them. It’s not an organization, it’s not a think-tank really it’s just networking – something that our younger generations need. We all have different levels of experience and a different perspective through which we can learn and teach each other and get through a lot of tough times together.

Q. Thanks so much for the interview but before we end, one last question for you: what are your future aspirations?
A. You are most welcome! I aspire to bring a change in the way minorities have been looked down on; and to continue the great struggle of martyr Shahbaz Bhatti in a unique way. Illuminate is my first step.

**For more information on Illuminate or how to get involved please comment below or email me at and I'll link you to Huma!**

I Stand With Israel!

Shalom Everyone!

Israel, God bless it! For a country that’s just over the size of Lake Ontario – approximately eight thousand square miles – it is by far the most amazing and blessed land in this world.

Last week my family and I were blessed to be able to attend two incredible events. The first was a benefit evening with the Jewish community from Uptown Chabad-Lubavitch. The benefit was well attended with about 900 people, who had the honor to alongside our Jewish brothers and sisters, to sit and listen to the one and only Glenn Beck – of Fox News and GBTV/Radio fame. I have to say, it was incredible and I learned a lot. Beck is clearly a wise, passionate and worldly man.

Beck has been a steadfast supporter of Israel for many years – here’s a clip from a 2011 from his show on Fox News just to give you all a taste of what I’m talking about.

So first off, the event was hosted by the HILARIOUS Reuven Russell who literally had me giggling my heart out – amazing host! (We really need to find us one of those in the Pakistani Christian community!) 

Reuven Russell
The word Chabad is an acronym which means wisdom, comprehension and knowledge, and Uptown Chabad-Lubavitch is dedicated to the teaching and preservation of Jewish history – so Beck was there to talk about the importance of KNOWING and TEACHING YOUR CHILDREN. Actually as I learned that evening, this teaching stems directly from one out of the six hundred thirteen commandments of God’s law for the Jews: which is simply to teach and learn the Torah. One of the speakers that evening reminded the Jewish community that "there will always be someone who knows more, and someone who knows less of the Torah around us so it is always possible to teach and learn!" I really think we need to start actively applying that law to our community and the Bible as well! 

As Beck said, we must learn and preserve history because one day it will be taken from us.

Here’s a clip from the evening – sorry that it’s quite blurry as I recorded it on my iPod but the audio should be alright!

Not only was it a joy to hear from Glenn Beck, but I gained so much from what I heard from my Jewish brethren as well. Talking about Israel’s history and it’s present day issues, Rabbi Moshe Steiner said “no matter what Hashem gives you, you can overcome.” Something that we too know from:

1Corinthians 10:13 -- No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Rabbi Moshe Steiner
Another speaker humbly told the audience that if Israel depended on physical strength alone, they may not have achieved many of the successes that they have in battle – but their success stems from their dedication and commitment to the God of Abraham, and His commitment to Israel through His promise. It still stands today guys, and I could give you a trillion reasons why this is true, but I'm not here to prove anything. Just to share these events with you! One thing I will repeat though, is a statement Beck made: the Jews are literally doing and following what Moses did way back when and you show me another nation, another people who after going through all that this nation has gone through AND are still right where the Lord God told them to be.

Phoebe Samuel with Michael Coren of Sun News Network.
This has all actually reminded me of a Jewish family that I know and love. They were my neighbours – who sadly moved away a couple of years ago much to the dismay of the entire neighbourhood I’m sure, because they were truly wonderful people – wonderful neighbours.

There was a time when my family and I were asked to share our life story with our church during an evening service – so we invited our friends, family and our neighbours to join us there. During this service I specifically told a story about a time when I needed and God provided.

Someday I’ll definitely blog about the circumstances in which this happened; but my family and I went through a very difficult time not too long ago where we were not financially stable. The story goes that one day I literally had no gas in my car and no money to buy it – but I had dedicated myself to my church choir, and was determined to make to every practice. So barring all logic I got into my car and drove to church. Thankfully the car made it to church but when I got there and parked I almost wanted to cry because – well have you ever had your car’s gas gauge go so far past the E for empty that you think you might just be going back in time?! Ok no not back in time but it was EMPTY.

So I braced myself and prayed for a miracle, and hobbled my way into church. I loved being in the choir, it was literally one of the only things holding my sanity together at that time and that night was especially uplifting – except that I still had no gas in the car. So after everything wrapped up and as the evening ended I felt my panic rising again, but I kept a smile plastered to my face and got my jacket – and that’s when this wonderfully kind woman of God ran up to me and grasped my arms with a smile saying “Wait! It’s Chinese New Year’s! I have something for you!”

So I hugged her and said my thank you and goodbye taking the traditional red Chinese New Year’s envelope from her. Just a note to everyone who hasn’t received one of these before, often they have a coin inside – or sometimes a chocolate coin instead and I was thinking that day well, ok a chocolate loonie will make me feel better I suppose. It was only once I got in my car and popped open the envelope that I realized what had just happened.

I got my miracle, and there was twenty dollars sitting in my hands for gas.

After the service ended and we had shared our story with the church, my Jewish neighbors waited for quite some time. The family came to speak with us and the patriarch of the family said to me in a fatherly tone, something along the lines of: “I never want to hear again that you have left your house lacking anything. If you need money, gas, a ride whatever please tell my family. It is our honor and our duty by our faith to look after others and we would consider it a favor if you asked us for help not the other way around.”

So yea, they were pretty amazing and I could tell you a million other stories why but needless to say I’ll never forget them. Of course there are positive and negative experiences with people in all communities and from all backgrounds – but I can say for myself, that this kind of genuine kindness and friendship is one that I have experienced with many Jewish people – especially the ones that I have extended my hand to as well.

Vincent and Phoebe Samuel with the outspoken Tarek Fatah.
Back to Glenn Beck though, he said something that many people need to hear and need to repeat over and over to everyone: standing with Israel is not even about the Holocaust, the fact is that this has happened literally nineteen times to them throughout history. Standing with Israel is not really about giving our armed forces to them or coming to their rescue because as Beck said they can pretty much kick anyone’s butt – example 1967.

It is the world’s responsibility to stand and say without a doubt that every Jew has the RIGHT to live, and Israel has the RIGHT to exist.

Glenn Beck
Beck also made another interesting point during the night about the Arab Spring – the rarity of the American Revolution aside; revolutions do not end with the people that started them. They end with the most ruthless, vicious and violent or the best organized – and as Glenn Beck pointed out, in the case of the Arab Spring both of those characteristics fit one group known as the Muslim Brotherhood.

But on to lighter subjects, I also learned that thirty percent of the American founders’ writings were based on the Book of Deuteronomy. Pretty amazing stuff – and as I’m slowly catching up on Canadian heritage these days too, I will definitely post more on our own founders and history in the upcoming months.

The second event we attended was at Victory International Church on Father’s Day where the Consul General of Israel, Honorable Amir Gissin visited to speak to the church about where Israel stands today and what as friends of Israel we can do to support them!

Sometimes with all the media hype and crazy news from the Middle East we can really forget just how small Israel is. I alluded to this in the beginning of the article but really it is SMALL – and this small country is in high demand.

Israel has its fair share of problems, mainly security issues; being populated with just about 8million and surrounded by a force of 80million against. But they also face a constant campaign to terrorize and malign their nation and existence as well. Honorable Gissin said my country “knows its problems” which is why it “also knows to appreciate its friends as well.”

Gissin detailed Israel’s understanding of the Arab Spring agenda which Glenn Beck also mentioned in the previous event. He discussed briefly the hypocrisy that is: the world’s reaction to Syria. Why is no one taking real action against Syria? There was literally thirty thousand victims in Libya before the world stepped in during that crisis as well – but Syria being in the heart of the Middle East is just too dangerous for the world’s forces it seems.

Gissin discussed how often human rights are used as a bargaining chip – and friends we can see this within our own country (Pakistan) as well: in example where the polio vaccine is being cut off by clerics and leaders who are demanding that US drone attacks be stopped before vaccination is given. So basically it’s ok to allow innocent people to die from deadly and preventable disease rather than to allow the removal of terrorists who are thriving on Pakistani soil and Pakistani blood.

Bargaining chip indeed.
June 19 2012, Polio Vaccinations being given to children in Lahore, Pakistan.
Another such issue is oil prices – which often dictate right and wrong because politicians feel they would be unable to survive it if they fought for the innocent – and we ended up paying more for our daily commute – but isn’t that true? Would they survive it? Probably not – but what does that mean for the suffering people in this world?

Gissin then discussed the issue of Iran’s mission to become a nuclear nation. It is clear that Israel will NEVER allow this to happen. Rightfully so because a nuclear Iran is not just Israel’s problem but everyone’s; a special correspondent of The PC Inquirer will be delving into the details of that issue with an upcoming article, so be looking out for that!

If a country not only constantly threatens to wipe out Israel but actively seeks the means to do it – that is a serious and real threat, and it is being taken really seriously. Quoting Gissin, “This is not politics, it’s just you see we have been there before. They tried and failed, and when we say never again it means only one thing: NEVER AGAIN.”

There’s a huge falsity being spread worldwide that the “problem with the Middle East” stems from the Israeli Palestinian conflict which is just not true. In fact all over the Middle East, Arabs are killing Arabs regularly – one of the oddest arguments I ever hear from my Muslim brothers and sisters when I speak with them about Christian persecution in Pakistan is that Muslims suffer far more; and in fact the reality is that they do suffer – they are suffering – but by their own hands. Gissin pointed out that during a year of the Arab Spring, just one single year – more Arabs died at the hands of their brothers than in near thirty years of casualties of war between both Israel and Palestine AND Israel and other Middle Eastern countries.

That my friend is hypocrisy: handing over Israel to Palestine is not only injustice, but it’s really irrelevant when it comes to what is happening in the Middle East, and the world.

Well, politics aside; on a brighter note Israel with its constant struggle for freedom still THRIVES. It is the most creative place on earth, and innovations such as its partnership with Canada on the Blackberry – medical, scientific, and technological advances make it irreplaceable. Last year alone Israel had over 700 start-up technology companies! There are more Nasdaq listings for Isreali companies than any other country in the world except the US itself – more listings than all of the European Union combined! Per capita Israel has more patents than the US!

So when you think of Israel if you think of conflict, think again.

Gissin also went into detail about the close and very much appreciated relationship that Canada shares with Israel; something that I am very proud of as a Canadian, and commend my government for maintaining not only through words but with actions.

Honorable Amir Gissin with the Rt Honorable Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Finally I just want to say Israel does not want to take over the world, in fact they already have their land of milk and honey; the place where our faith and our world was shaped. Judaism is one of the only religions in the world that does not try to push its beliefs down anyone’s throats but only to preserve it within their own communities. They are a people who give more than they take in near every sense and I for one can’t wait to go there to see it for myself! So I hope I was able to share with you a little about the socio-political reasons why I stand with Israel – someday I’ll delve into why my faith also tells me to bless God’s chosen people. 

For now though, thanks for reading!