|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:
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)|
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll link you to Huma!**