Healthy and Unhealthy Fear

Today’s reading: 2 Chronicles 15:3–6

Additional Scripture Readings: Psalm 27:1; 1 John 4:18

We ought to be thankful for some forms of fear. Fear prompts us to check on the kids in their beds when a sound wakes us at night. Fear makes us grab a child who is toddling out into the street.

Some forms of fear are healthy and provide protection. But when fear becomes the center of our lives, dictating our action or inaction, it ceases to be helpful and becomes a hindrance to our growth. When we shut ourselves away in our homes, insulating our families from the “harm” in the world, we also separate them from interaction in life as well as from the potential good they could accomplish in a world that needs the love of Christ.

In which camp do your fears fall? Does your fear serve you well by protecting you from harm? Or does it hold you and your family back from your God-given potential?

Source:  NIV Devotions For Moms

Fear should protect us and our loved ones from harm.  It should never cripple us to the point where we can’t enjoy life anymore.  God doesn’t want us to live in fear.  Fear should never become the center of our lives–that place should be reserved for God only.  He is greater than all of our fears.  When we hold on to fear, we are letting go of God and basically telling Him that we don’t trust Him or that He is no longer in control of our lives.   We need to cast away the fear which prevents us from interacting with others and accomplishing God’s purpose in our lives.  How can we share the Good News when we shut ourselves up from the rest of the world?

Don’t let fear control you.  Don’t let it rob you of a happy, fulfilling life.  Don’t let it rob you of God’s wonderful plan for your life.  Overcome fear with faith.

Send Words of Support to Women Facing Breast Cancer

I got the following email from Care2 and ThePetitionSite Team and wanted to pass it on.

For Mary Lelonde, a mammogram in 2003 was anything but routine. Two small tumors were discovered, and it set in motion a roller coaster of worry, surgery and radiation treatments.

Each year, thousands of Canadians are affected by breast cancer. More research, greater diagnostic tools and better treatment are increasing the odds every day, but still one of the best ways to give hope to someone facing down the disease is the support their families, friends and loved ones.

Anyone who has faced breast cancer, or watched a friend or loved one struggle knows how devastating the diagnosis can be. But they also know how much strength and hope the support of friends and loved ones can provide. »

Fortunately for Mary and her family, she sailed through her treatment with the help of husband, Rick and daughter, Pam. These days she’s paying it back by giving her time and support to other woman facing the disease.

Join Mary in making a difference today: Send your message of support to women across Canada facing breast cancer »

Take action link: http://www.care2.com/go/z/e/AgzrD/zLrU/BTvev

Women and Alzheimer’s

Recently I received an email from Care 2 Make a Difference, encouraging me to become a Memory Maker for the Alzheimer Society here in Toronto .  What exactly does this mean?  A Memory Maker is someone who wants to make a difference in the lives of people living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias in their community.  They do this by coming up with creative, unique and inspiring ways to raise funds in support of the Alzheimer Society mission.   If you are interested in becoming a Memory Maker, click here to find out how.

What is Alzheimer’s? 

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. In most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first appear after age 60.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among older people. Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning—thinking, remembering, and reasoning—and behavioral abilities, to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. Dementia ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person’s functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for basic activities of daily living.

Alzheimer’s disease is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer. In 1906, Dr. Alzheimer noticed changes in the brain tissue of a woman who had died of an unusual mental illness. Her symptoms included memory loss, language problems, and unpredictable behavior. After she died, he examined her brain and found many abnormal clumps (now called amyloid plaques) and tangled bundles of fibers (now called neurofibrillary tangles). Plaques and tangles in the brain are two of the main features of Alzheimer’s disease. The third is the loss of connections between nerve cells (neurons) in the brain.  

I was reading about Alzheimer’s and its impact on women.  Sixty-five percent of those with Alzheimer’s are women, and women are also more likely than men to be caregivers for someone with the disease.  Maria Shriver, an executive producer for The Alzheimer’s Project documentaries that aired two years ago on HBO.  Her father, the first leader of the Peace Corps, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2003.  He is in his nineties.  

According to the poll, which gathered information from 3,118 adults nationwide, including more than 500 Alzheimer caregivers:

  • 60% of Alzheimer’s caregivers are women.
  • Of those women, 68% report they have emotional stress from caregiving.
  • Nearly half of these 68% rate their stress as a “5” on a scale of “1” to “5.”
  • 57% of all caregivers, including 2/3 of the women, admit they fear getting Alzheimer’s.
  • 4 in 10 caregivers say they had no choice about their new role.

How heartbreaking it must be for a woman to see someone she loves deteriorate.  Does she, like Maria Shriver fear that one day she will get Alzheimer’s?  There are risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s and they are:

Age – The brain has to reach a certain critical age for the disease to occur. The older you become the higher the risk – 1 in 20 Canadians over age 65 and 1 in 4 of those over age 85 are affected by Alzheimer’s disease. 

Family history and genetics – A very small percentage of people with Alzheimer’s disease (5-7%) has Familial Alzheimer’s disease or FAD (formerly known as “early onset Alzheimer’s disease”). At some point in their family history certain genes mutated and developed the abnormal characteristics that cause FAD. These inherited genes have a powerful influence: if one parent has FAD, each child has a 50 % chance of inheriting the disease, and with two parents with FAD, 75% of their children will go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease in adulthood. 

ApoE4 Gene – This gene is the most important genetic risk factor for the sporadic form of Alzheimer’s disease. ApoE genes regulate the production of a protein that helps carry cholesterol and other fats in the blood to the cells of the body. Of the three variants of the apoE gene (apoE2, apoE3 and apoE4), the apoE4 variant is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Female Gender – Twice as many women get Alzheimer’s disease than men. Many believe that it is in a large part a result of the changes to women’s hormones at menopause, in particular the decline of the important hormone estrogen. In the past estrogen was often prescribed to relieve symptoms of menopause and to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. On average, women live longer than men and age is a risk factor. Women are also more prone to diabetes, which is also a risk factor (see below), and recently, a gene was identified that occurs only in women, and appears to somewhat increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Cardiovascular Disease – All the risk factors for cardiovascular disease (such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels) are also risk factors for both Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular Dementia. Strokes and mini-strokes (the latter detected largely through later testing), are also well-accepted risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and for Vascular Dementia.

Diabetes – It has been known for some time that type 2 (“Adult”) diabetes is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

Down Syndrome – Almost all individuals with Down syndrome who live into their forties and beyond will develop the abnormal changes in the brain (the plaques and tangles) that characterize Alzheimer’s disease. It is important to note, however that not all people with Down syndrome who develop these brain changes will go on to develop dementia.

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) – In MCI, there is a level of cognitive and/or memory impairment beyond that expected for normal aging but not sufficiently advanced to be called “dementia” or “Alzheimer’s disease.” It is estimated that up to 85% of people with MCI, who are often in their early forties or fifties, will develop Alzheimer’s disease within ten years, making MCI an important risk factor for the disease.

Head injury – Brain injuries at any age, especially repeated concussions, are accepted by most clinicians as risk factors for the later development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Low Levels of Formal Education – Several studies have shown that people who have less than six years of formal education appear to have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. It has been assumed that the brain stimulation associated with learning provides a protective effect for the brain; therefore more education provides greater protection. However, new studies challenge this conclusion, and it may be that factors often associated with low educational background, such as unhealthy lifestyle, account for the risk rather than low educational level itself.

Other risk factors are:  inflammatory conditions (possibly reflecting immune system malfunction), a history of episodes of clinical depression, stress, and inadequate exercising of the brain. Risk factors that are less firmly established include smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and drug abuse.  Aluminum is no longer regarded as a risk factor although some researchers are still examining whether some people are at risk because their bodies have difficulties in handling foods containing the metals copper, iron, and aluminium.

How do you reduce the risk of getting Alzheimer’s?  Living a healthy lifestyle may help to reduce one’s overall risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.  A healthy lifestyle includes healthy eating, maintaining a healthy weight, taking part in regular physical activity (which can be quite modest), maintaining normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels and participating in activities that involve socializing and stimulating brain activity.  I have always heard that seniors are encouraged to do cross word puzzles and other activities that will help to stimulate their brains. 

Encourage your parents and grandparents to take care of their health and to be physically active.  Engage them in activities that will stimulate their brains.  Don’t wait until you are their age!  Start doing what you need to do to reduce your risk of getting Alzheimer’s. 

For those of you who are caregivers for people suffering with Alzheimer’s, here are simple strategies that will help you to get through your most demanding days and protect you against caregiver burnout:

  • Schedule mini-workouts throughout the day. Regular exercise not only keeps you fit, it releases endorphins that keep you happy. Ten minute sessions sprinkled over the course of the day are easier to block out than an hour away. Look for library videos, websites, and TV programs to keep your routines varied and motivating.
  • Take time to play. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, include your loved one in short walks, board games, or jigsaw puzzles. Join an online scrabble tournament, practice your golf swing, or master the yo-yo. A daily dose of fun is good medicine, and doesn’t require money, a car, or huge blocks of time.
  • Try something new. Challenge yourself to learn a new skill while you are “on the job.” Order a self-paced foreign language program and you will count to 100 in no time. Join the video game fitness craze to try a new sport. From singing to bowling to pitching a strike, systems like the Nintendo Wii offer living room-friendly activities for every age and skill level. With just a few minutes of practice each day, you can flex mental muscle and release harmful steam.
  • Keep ‘em laughing. Humor is a well-known antidote to stress, sadness, illness, and boredom. Give yourself permission to chuckle at the absurdities you and your loved one experience, and surround yourself with laughter. Avoid heavy dramas at the video store and go for a hearty belly laugh. Your infectious good mood will replenish your inner resources and sooth your loved one.
  • Ask for help. For someone who is used to operating independently, the realities of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease can be a real eye-opener. Those with strong support systems, creative respite arrangements, and regular time away not only fare better, they also find more satisfaction in their caretaking roles. Join a support group, schedule frequent breaks, and seek professional help if you recognize yourself in the “warning signs of caregiver burnout.”

 This prayer came to mind as I thought of those suffering with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

GOD, grant me the Serenity
to accept the things
I cannot change,
Courage to change the
things I can,
and the Wisdom
to know the difference

 Nancy Reagan was viewed as the model for caregivers of Alzheimer patients around the world.  When her late husband President Ronald Reagan was diagnosed with the disease, she cared for him and became an advocate for research to cure the debilitating brain disorder.   It was a long and very difficult period for her.  She said, “We have learned, as too many other families have learned, of the terrible pain and loneliness that must be endured as each day brings another reminder of this very long goodbye.” To her it seemed as if her husband was in a distant place where she could no longer reach him. But she added that she is determined to do whatever she can to save other families from the pain hers has suffered.

My heart goes out to those who are suffering from Alzheimer’s and I pray that their caregivers will have the courage and strength to help them through these difficult times. 

Become a Memory Maker for the Alzheimer’s Society so that we can help raise money for important research on the causes, prevention and cure of Alzheimer’s disease.  Your fundraiser will be a very important contribution to those living with dementia, their caregivers and families.  Plan today to make a difference for those with Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Sources:  http://www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers/Publications/adfact.htm; http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=121070; http://www.alzheimer.ca/english/disease/causes-riskfac.htm; http://helpguide.org/elder/alzheimers_disease_dementia_support_caregiver.htm; http://www.angelfire.com/ny2/dementia1/poems.html;                              http://www.voanews.com/english/news/a-13-a-2004-06-09-19-1-66888737.html

 

Bathsheba

Her name means “daughter of an oath.”  She will forever be known as the married woman who committed adultery with the king of Israel.  Who was Bathsheba?  She was the wife of Uriah, a Hittite.  A Hittite is a descendant of Heth, the 2nd son of Canaan.  They were once inhabitants of central Anatolia (modern Turkey), later in North Lebanon.

She was the daughter of Eliam.  Eliam was one of King David’s thirty (2 Samuel 23:34; 1 Chronicles 3:5).  Her grandfather was Ahitophel, one of David’s chief advisors (Joshua 15:51; 2 Samuel 15:12).  Ahitophel was from Giloh (Joshua 15:51; 2 Samuel 15:12). Giloh is a city in the mountains of Judah.

Bathsheba was the mother of Solomon, Shimea, Shobab and Nathan.  She became the Queen Mother when her son Solomon succeeded David as king.  She secured Solomon’s succession to the throne instead of David’s eldest surviving son, Adonijah (1 Kings 1:11-31).  She was from David’s own tribe.  We don’t know who her mother was.  There’s no mention of her anywhere in the Bible.

Some Bible commentators have come to the conclusion that Bathsheba may have written at least part of Proverbs 31 because of the connections between king Lemuel aka King Solomon.

Bathsheba was married to a good, loyal man.  What would drive her to sleep with the king?  Why didn’t she refuse him?  He was married.  In fact, he was a polygamist.  Personally, I would be insulted if someone, and I don’t care who he is, thought he could sleep with me even though I am a married woman.  What is troubling is that David knew who her husband was.  When he saw her bathing, he asked who she was and found out that she was married to one of his men.  Did that deter him?  No.  It was as if her marriage didn’t make any difference to him.  He wanted her and was determined to have her.  He acted like a tyrant.  He arranged for her to go to him the same evening he saw her taking a bath and he slept with her.  After they were done, she went back home.

What would drive a woman to sleep with another man while her husband was away at war?  Was it loneliness?  Was she flattered by the king’s attention?  Did she feel that she didn’t have a choice?  Whatever her reason, she allowed herself to be seduced by a king who should have been away at war with his men.

Not long after she became pregnant and she told the king about it.  His response was to try to get her husband to sleep with her so that he could cover up what he had done.  Uriah declined to go to his wife.  The army was on a campaign and the rule was that the men abstained from sex.  Uriah was a man of principle and that was why he did not go home to his wife.  One commentator said that if he had gone home, he would have been a man of less principle, the child might have been passed off as his and he would not have been killed.  It is possible that Uriah already suspected the truth.  When David failed to get Uriah to sleep with his wife, he had him killed in battle.  After she finished mourning her husband’s death, David married Bathsheba.  The child conceived in adultery died soon after he was born.

Unfortunately, Bathsheba will always be seen as an adulteress.  In Matthew 1:6, the apostle makes the following reference:  David the king begot Solomon by her [who had been the wife] of Uriah.  Bathsheba is not even mentioned by name.  She is  simply referred to as the woman who had been Uriah’s wife.

Bathsheba was known first and foremost as the “wife of Uriah”.  2 Samuel 11:26 states:  And when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. Note, it does not say “And when Bathsheba heard that Uriah was dead, she mourned for him”.  The writer emphasized the relationship between these two people and at the same time pointed out the enormity of David’s sin.  He had separated two people who had been bound in marriage.  What God had joined together, David had put asunder.

In all fairness, David, when confronted by the prophet Nathan, confessed his sin and God forgave him.  When he and Bathsheba lost their son, he comforted her and she became pregnant with Solomon whom God loved.  The Lord gave the child another name through the prophet Nathan.  It was Jedidiah which means “beloved of Jehovah”  In the end, Bathsheba was blessed with four sons, one of whom was beloved of God and became Israel’s 3rd king, celebrated for his riches, splendor and wisdom.

I am confident that God forgave Bathsheba for committing adultery.  If you have committed adultery, ask for His forgiveness.  If someone approaches you about having an affair, make it clear to him that you are not interested because you or he is or both of you are married.  Marriage is sacred and should be treated with the utmost respect.  Too many marriages are falling by the wayside because people are not investing in them.  They have affairs or quit because they can’t cope.  Successful and lasting marriages take work.  Christian couples who have been married for fifty years or more have had their share of ups and downs, but with God’s help they were able to weather the storms.

Marriage is an institution set up by God and He expects those who enter into it to remain faithful to each and to stay together until death parts them.  This is why marriage should be entered into carefully and wisely.  Make sure you are ready.   It is recommended that people who are thinking of getting married, should go for premarital counselling first.  Marriages should last long–definitely much longer than 72 days!  Couples should strive to meet each others’ needs so that there is no possibility of straying outside of the marriage.

 

Be Who You Are

Even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. —1 Peter 3:14

While awaiting a routine medical procedure in a local hospital, I noticed a wall plaque showing Christ on a cross. Later, a nurse asked me several administrative questions, in-cluding, “Do you have any spiritual needs you’d like to discuss with a chaplain?” I said that I appreciated her asking that question, which I found unusual in today’s world. She replied with a smile that they are a faith-based hospital and “that’s part of our mission.” I was impressed that the people were not afraid to be who they are in an increasingly secular and pluralistic society.

Peter urged the first-century believers who had been scattered by persecution and were living in a hostile world to consider it a blessing to suffer for the sake of what is right. “But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it” (1 Peter 3:14-15 NLT).

Just as the woman at the hospital freely stated their faith, so we can express ours. And if we are criticized or treated unfairly because of our belief in Christ, we should respond with gentleness and respect. We should never be afraid to be who we are in Him.

Whenever people judge and say
They don’t like what we believe,
We need to show a Christlike grace—
Then our Lord they might receive. —Branon

It’s better to suffer for the cause of Christ
than for the cause of Christ to suffer.

Source:  Our Daily Bread

On Halloween, my manager asked me about taking my son tricking and treating and when I informed him that it wasn’t something that I did, he was taken aback.  He said I would have gotten to leave early if I were going trick and treating.  As a Christian, I cannot and will not have anything to do with Halloween.   For some people it’s their favorite time of the year but for me it’s that time of the year I can do without.  Many people think it’s harmless fun–dressing up and giving out candy but I don’t agree.  It was traditionally believed that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until All Saints’ Day, and All Hallows’ Eve provided one last chance for the dead to gain vengeance on their enemies before moving onto the next world.  To avoid being recognised by a soul, Christians would wear masques and costumes to disguise themselves, following the lighted candles set by others to guide their travel for worship the next day.  Today, this practice has been perpetuated through trick-or-treating.  I’m always surprised when I see Christians get into the spirit of Halloween.  They dress up their kids, hand out candy, carve pumpkins and even deck out their homes with Halloween decorations.  What happened to being in the world but not being of the world?  Christians and Halloween should not mix.

As Christians, we must stand up and be proud of who we are.  So what if people think we are strange because we don’t trick or treat?  We have to be true to ourselves and not worry about what others think of us.  As long as we are living in obedience to God and living our lives in ways that are pleasing to Him, that’s all that matters.  Remember people criticized John the Baptist because he didn’t touch alcohol.  They criticized Jesus for associating with sinners.  Mary was criticized for sitting at Jesus’ feet by Martha and by the disciples for anointing His feet.  Jesus’ neighbors criticized Him when He was teaching in the synagogue.  They wondered among themselves, “Where [did] this Man [get] these things? And what wisdom [is] this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands!  “Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him (Mark 6:2, 3).  As a result of their unbelief, Jesus couldn’t perform any miracles.

When people criticize you for your faith, don’t get upset with them.  Continue to treat them with kindness and respect.  Let your conduct be such that they see Christ in you.   Don’t act as someone in the world would, act as Jesus would.

Whose Child Is This?

When I read this devotional, it touched my heart.  It is as if it were meant for me.

Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 1:21–28

Additional Scripture Readings: Psalm 66:19–20; Proverbs 3:5–6

Have you ever prayed Hannah’s words as your own?

I have. Several times. Eagerly I’ve asked for God to take charge of my children. Out of fear that I might “ruin” them, I hand them over to him.

But as I give my children to God, I often hear him ask, “Do you really trust me with your children? Do you trust me to get them to school safely?”

“Yes!” I respond.

“Do you believe that I can guide them through an illness?”

“Of course!”

“How about deciding if they will marry—and who?”

“Better you than I!” I say.

“Then do you trust me to select the very best mother for your children and for who I want them to become?”

We can be the mothers our children need because God divinely chose us for the job. Don’t doubt it. He knows what he is doing. And aren’t we glad!

Source:  NIV Devotions for Mom

As mothers, we tend to worry a lot when it comes to our children.  There are times when we feel inadequate and as if we are not doing a very good job raising them.  We worry that we might say or do something that would have a lasting and negative effect on them and their future.  We worry about their future and their health.  We seek God in pray, spilling our fears and worries at His feet.  Then, we are reminded that He is in charge as well as He never gives us more than we can handle.  He knows what we are capable of better than we do.  And if He places children in our care, then it means that we are equipped to take care of them. 

God loves our children more than we do and that’s saying a lot because we absolutely adore them.  They are His precious gifts to us.  God chose us to be our children’s mothers–caretakers.  He knows best what kind of mothers we would be and He’s there to give us a helping hand.  He too wants what’s best for our children. 

My favorite Bible verse is the promise found in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”  God has plans for all of us.  He has plans for our children and they are for their good.  He is a God of love and order.  He will direct their steps. 

When those doubts return and you find yourself wondering if you were cut out for being a Mom, just remember that God chose you to do this awesome job.  He chose you to be a steward of that precious life which He will mold into whom He wants your child to be.  And don’t think that you’re doing this alone.  You’re not.  God is right there with you.  And just as He was there with Samuel, Ishmael, David, Daniel, Jesus, to name a few, He will be there for your child, watching him or her grow. 

Don’t worry about your shortcomings.  No one is perfect.  Children don’t come with manuals.  Just be the mothers that your children need.  You can do it.  God says you can and God knows best, doesn’t He?  Trust Him.

Benazir Bhutto

Just recently I read that seven men were indicted in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s first and to date only female prime minister.  Those indicted were two senior police officers and five suspected Taliban militants.  The officers were arrested a year ago while the suspected militants have been in custody for nearly four years.  The alleged militants are charged with criminal conspiracy and accused of helping the suicide bomber who killed Bhutto.  The police offers face charges of failure to protect Bhutto. Prosecutor Mohammad Azhar said they are accused of changing the security plan for Bhutto.  One can’t help wonder how a suicide bomber could get so close to Bhutto, especially after previous attempts were made on her life, including a bombing on Oct. 18, 2007 near her motorcade in Karachi.

Benazir Bhutto served two terms as prime minister and had recently returned to Pakistan from a self-imposed exile striking a deal with the military ruler at the time, Pervez Musharraf.  She was killed while leaving a campaign rally for the PPP at Liaquat National Bagh on December 27, 2007 while travelling in a convoy following an election rally in Rawalpindi.  No doubt people are hoping that justice will be served.  The assassination took place two weeks before the scheduled Pakistani general election of 2008 in which she was a leading opposition candidate.  The following year, she was named one of seven winners of the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights.

Before attempts were made on her life, Benazir Bhutto had her share of trouble with the government.  After her father,  Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, elected prime minister was overthrown, she spent the next eighteen months in and out of house arrest as she struggled to rally political support to force General Zia-ul-Haq to drop murder charges against her father.  Things didn’t work out, unfortunately.  General Zia-ul-Haq ignored worldwide appeals for clemency and had Zulfikar Bhutto hanged in April 1979.  After the hanging of her father, Benazir Bhutto was repeatedly arrested and repeatedly placed under house arrest.  During the summer of 1981, the regime finally imprisoned her under solitary confinement in a desert cell in Sindhi province.  She described the conditions in her wall-less cage in her book “Daughter of Destiny“, which goes by the title of “Daughter of the East” in Commonwealth countries for copyright reasons.

“The summer heat turned my cell into an oven. My skin split and peeled, coming off my hands in sheets. Boils erupted on my face. My hair, which had always been thick, began to come out by the handful. Insects crept into the cell like invading armies. Grasshoppers, mosquitoes, stinging flies, bees and bugs came up through the cracks in the floor and through the open bars from the courtyard. Big black ants, cockroaches, seething clumps of little red ants and spiders. I tried pulling the sheet over my head at night to hide from their bites, pushing it back when it got too hot to breathe.”

Benazir Bhutto was allowed to leave Pakistan in 1984.  She settled in London and while living there, she and her two brothers founded an underground organization to resist General Zia’s military dictatorship.  A year later when her brother died, she returned to Pakistan for his burial and was arrested  for participating in anti-government rallies.  After her release she returned to London.  Martial law was lifted in Pakistan at the end of the year, anti-Zia demonstrations resumed and Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan in April 1986.  She called publicly for the resignation of Zia Ul Haq, whose government had executed her father.

Benazir Bhutto was elected co-chairwoman of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) along with her mother.  In 1988 when free elections were finally held, Benazir became Prime Minister at the age of 35, earning her the distinction of being one of the youngest chief executives in the world and the first woman to serve as prime minister in an Islamic country.  After serving only two years of her first term, Benazir Bhutto was dismissed from office by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan.  She promptly initiated an anti-corruption campaign, and in 1993 was re-elected as Prime Minister.  While in office, she brought electricity to the countryside and built schools all over the country.  She made hunger, housing and health care her top priorities and looked forward to continuing to modernize Pakistan.  She sought to improve the country’s economy which was declining as the time was passing.

Benazir Bhutto faced much opposition from the Islamic fundamentalist movement.  Her estranged brother, Mir Murtaza, leveled charges of corruption against Benazir’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari.  In a strange twist of events, Mir died when his bodyguard became involved in a gunfight with police in Karachi.  The Pakistani public was shocked by this turn of events and PPP supporters were divided over the charges against Zardari.

Benazir Bhutto was pro-life and spoke strongly against abortion.  She did not receive support from leading women organizations, who argued that after being elected twice, none of the reforms were made, instead controversial laws were exercised more toughly.  Not surprisingly, in 1997 elections, Bhutto failed to secure any support from women’s organizations and minorities also she got the cold-shoulder when she approached them.  There were economic issues which didn’t improve during her leadership.  The standard of living declined as inflation and unemployment grew at an alarming rate.  The difference between rich and poor visibly increased and the middle class in particular were the ones who suffered from the major economic inequality

The relationship between Bangladesh and Pakistan became strained and tensions arose when Benazir Bhutto ordered a crackdown on and deportation of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.  She was criticized for her action by religious parties who dubbed the crackdown as anti-Islamic.  Her foreign policy was described as controversial and difficult for experts to describe in words.  She initially supported the Taliban.  She, like many others at the time, viewed the Taliban as a group that could stabilize Afghanistan and enable trade access to the Central Asian republics.  Author Stephen Coll claims that Bhutto’s government provided military and financial support for the Taliban, even sending a small unit of the Pakistani army into Afghanistan. During her regime, Bhutto’s government had controversially supported the hardline Taliban, and many of her government officials were providing financial assistance to the Taliban.  However, in 2007, she took an anti-Taliban stance and condemned terrorist acts allegedly committed by the Taliban and their supporters.

Benazir Bhutto faced parliamentary opposition from 1996-1999.  She and her husband faced corruption charges which she claimed were purely political.  Despite numerous cases and charges of corruption registered against Bhutto by Nawaz Sharif between 1996–1999 and Pervez Musharraf from 1999 till 2008, she was yet to be convicted in any case.  The cases were withdrawn by the government of Pakistan after the return to power of Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party in 2008.   Bhutto did not live to see her party’s overhelming victory in the 2008 elections.  PPP member, Yousaf Raza Gillani was chosen to serve as Prime Minister and later that year, following the resignation of President Musharraf Benazir’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari was elected President of Pakistan.

Although, controversy surrounded Pakistan’s first and only female Prime Minister, she still left a legacy behind.  The Pakistani government honoured Bhutto on her birth anniversary by renaming  the Islamabad International Airport as Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Muree Roadof Rawalpindias Benazir Bhutto Roadand Rawalpindi GeneralHospitalas Benazir Bhutto Hospital. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, a member of Bhutto’s PPP, also asked President Pervez Musharraf to pardon convicts on death row on her birthday in honour of Bhutto.

Notes to Women remembers this pioneer for democracy and hope that those who are responsible for her death will be brought to justice.

Despite threats of death, I will not acquiesce to tyranny, but rather lead the fight against it.

Democracy needs support and the best support for democracy comes from other democracies. Democratic nations should come together in an association designed to help each other and promote what is a universal value — democracy.

Democracy is necessary to peace and to undermining the forces of terrorism.

You can imprison a man, but not an idea. You can exile a man, but not an idea. You can kill a man, but not an idea.

Now, when people are dying, you don’t really look at who’s offering the help. You take it. The first issue should be to help the people.

Benazir Bhutto

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benazir_Bhutto

http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/bhu0bio-1

http://news.ca.msn.com/top-stories/pakistan-court-indicts-7-men-for-bhutto-killing-4