Persecuted for Their Faith

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven – Matthew 5:10

I have been aware of how much the church has been persecuted in different parts of the world through emails from Voice of the Martyrs Canada.  I have read many heartbreaking stories but I will share two of them.  A Christian woman named Mariam was expelled from her home by her husband who had militant Muslim views because she refused to renounce her faith.  At the time Mariam was pregnant and due to give birth soon.  She had to be cared for by church members.  In 2012 when she became a Christian, her Muslim family provoked an attack, forcing her to live on the streets.  Mariam is from the Ivory Coast which has seen an increase in violence since November 2010.

In Pakistan a teen died after being set on fire.  He was approached by two men who asked him about his religion.  After Nauman told them that he was a Christian, they proceeded to beat him.  He tried to run away but they followed him and doused him with kerosene and set him on fire.  Unfortunately, his attackers wore masks so there is little hope that they will be caught.  And it doesn’t help that the authorities show little interest in further investigation.

I thought that what these people experienced in their countries was bad but Ivory Coast and Pakistan are not even part of Gospel for Asia’s list of the top 10 countries where Christians are persecuted.  Life for Christians in these countries is simply horrendous.  First up is North Korea.

North Korea is the worst persecutor of Christians in the world. Christians are tortured, imprisoned and murdered. Private, non-state-sanctioned religious activity is prohibited. Anyone discovered engaging in clandestine religious activity is subject to arrest, torture or even public execution – Voice of the Martyrs – North Korea.

Yang was a Christian woman who became a follower of Jesus while she was still living in North Korea. Watch her incredible story of pain and hope.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” – John 16:33

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam is known for being one of the worst places when it comes to women’s rights and religious freedom.  According to VOM Canada, it is one of the most oppressive nations in the world for Christians.

Religious freedom is nonexistent, and leaving Islam is punishable by death. Non-Muslims are not permitted to become citizens of Saudi Arabia, and no places of worship other than mosques are permitted in the country. All non-Muslim religious rituals and materials are banned. Converts from Islam to Christianity are rare, and converts have been executed for the offense. Anyone who performs mission work or converts a Muslim faces jail, expulsion, lashing, torture or execution. Non-Muslim worship, even private worship for foreign Christians, is prohibited, and Saudi religious police have been known to raid homes where expatriate workers were worshiping – Voice of the Martyrs – Saudi Arabia.

In September 2014, a house church in the city of Khafji was raided and 28 people were arrested, including children. Bibles and musical instruments were also seized. The worshippers, mostly expatriate workers from South Asia, were held overnight and released the following day, apart from a leader of the group who was held for another night – Church in Chains.

Can you imagine receiving 200 lashes and two years in prison if you are from Saudi Arabia and 300 lashes and six years in prison if you are from another country?  In 2012, two men, one Lebanese and the other Saudi Arabian were charged with brainwashing a Saudi woman into becoming a Christian.  These charges were levelled against them by the woman’s family.  The woman, known as the “girl of Khobar” is living in Sweden where she has been granted asylum.  She wasn’t brainwashed, she chose to become a Christian (Church in Chains).  Watch as she and another Saudi share their testimonies.

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” – John 8:36

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan does not recognize any Afghan citizens as being Christians, nor are Afghan citizens legally permitted to convert to Christianity. Although there are no explicit laws that forbid proselytizing, many authorities and most of society view the practice as contrary to the beliefs of Islam. There is only one legally recognized church in Afghanistan and it is located within the diplomatic enclave, and not open to local nationals.  Muslims who change their faith to Christianity, are subject to societal and official pressure, which may lead to death penalty. However, there are cases in which a Muslim will adopt the Christian faith, secretly declaring his/her apostasy. In effect, they are practising Christians, but legally Muslims; thus, the statistics of Afghan Christians does not include Muslim apostates to Christianity – Wikipedia

I read that the growing number of Christians in Afghanistan is causing great concern among the Muslim leaders and they are calling on President Hamid Karzai to “limit the number of aid workers and Christian missionaries coming to Afghanistan” to keep Afghanis from converting to Christianity.”  Apparently this all started when a TV station in Kabul reported the conversion of several Afghans to Christianity and broadcasted photos of them praying and being baptized.  This sparked an outrage and a call to convict believers under the Sharia Law which decrees that anyone who leaves Islam and converts to another religion that person will be executed – Christian Headlines.  The Afghan Christians have no church building where they can go because the last one was destroyed two years ago.  They are completely underground now and are risking their lives to meet in homes.

This is my comfort in my affliction, For Your word has given me life – Psalm 119:50

The situation of religious freedom for Christians has seriously deteriorated under the influence of the establishment of the Islamic State in large parts of Iraq. In June 2014, a strict version of Islamic law was implemented in the area the militants of Islamic State hold. Christians were forced to convert, flee or pay a tax for religious minorities. As a result, many Christians fled. Moreover, the broader Iraqi society is turning more Islamic, with increased social control on women wearing a veil and observance of Ramadan. Christians most affected by persecution are converts from Islam. However, in areas held by radical Islamic groups all Christians are under great pressure – Open Doors USA

A family of four was forced to flee Iraq because of militants and a man for questioning the Quran.  Read their stories.

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand’ – Isaiah 41:10

Last year a Somalian believer was dragged outside of her home and murdered by a group of armed men. Anyone who tried to rescue her was shot at.  Her parents witnessed this terrible tragedy.  If a Somali was discovered to be a follower of Jesus, that person was going to face certain death not only in Somalia but in neighbouring countries where they are forced to flee as refugees.  According to one VOM source, “In Somalia, they kill you if they just find a piece of literature” (VOM USA).  My thoughts are with this young woman’s family and I pray that they are leaning on Jesus and trusting Him to strengthen them each day.

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You – Psalm 9:10

Maldives is one of the least evangelized countries in the world. The 0.2% figure for Christians refers to expatriate Christians. Citizens of the Maldives are automatically Muslim, and non-Muslims may not become citizens. The open practice of any religion other than Islam is forbidden. Maldivian believers are carefully watched. They suffer ostracism, mockery, incarceration and even torture. Christians cannot meet or read the Scriptures openly. Expatriate believers have been expelled, especially after sharing their faith – VOM Canada.

Citizens of the Maldives who convert to Christianity lose their citizenship and risk torture. Expulsions of Christians occurred several times in the last 10 years (Wikipedia).

In his presidential campaign the current President of Maldives, Abdulla Yameen promoted himself as a saviour of Islam. “Think for yourselves, do you want Islam in the Maldives or do you want to allow space for other religions in the Maldives,” he said in an election speech.  In his speech on Maldives Conversion to Islam Day, he told the citizens, “We should also be very vigilant of foreign influences attempting to weaken our religious faith” (The Diplomat).  Clearly, things for Christian believers in Maldives is not going to change any time soon.  Let’s lift them up in our prayers that they will remain strong and steadfast until the Lord returns.

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you – 1 Peter 5:10

It has been said that Mali has always been a dangerous place for Christians.  Christians who have fled are afraid to return and those who return find their properties occupied by Muslims.  There is no normal church life for Malian Christians in the north and those living in the south feel threatened by the Islamic groups in the north (source:  Open Doors).  Read about a pastor who escaped a deadly plot in Mali.

For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil” – 1 Peter 3:12

Imagine risking your life to tell others about Jesus in a country where religious freedom is on the decline. Watch this compelling video of a Iranian woman named Padina who was about to commit suicide but God intervened.

“I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” – John 8:12

Yemeni citizens are not allowed to convert to Christianity (or other religions). Converts from an Islamic background may face the death penalty if their new faith is discovered. Converts from Islam also encounter opposition from extremist groups, who threaten “apostates” with death if they do not revert to Islam. Proselytizing of Muslims is prohibited – VOM Canada

How frustrating it must be to have to hide your new faith or face possible death if it is discovered.  Please pray that your Yemeni brothers and sisters will be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1).

Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the LORD – Psalm 31:24

I received a prisoner update of an Eritrean man named Mussie Eyob who has been in prison since 2011. He was arrested because of his faith and his desire to share the Gospel with others.  Mussie became a Christian in 2008.  Three years later, while he was living in Saudi Arabia, he went to a mosque where he spoke about Christianity.  He was arrested on February 12, 2011.  It is a capital offence to proselyte in Saudi Arabia.  Praise God, He intervened through the appeals from various human rights groups and individuals.  Mussie was deported to Eritrea.  You can read his story here and see how you can reach out to him and his family.

It is ironic that as the people of Eritrea celebrated 24 years of independence in March 2015, religious freedom for Christians is still a concern.   According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), the greatest shortcomings in religious freedom are felt by minority groups such as evangelical Christians.  So once again, in 2015,  USCIRF holds to its position that Eritrea is to be designated as a “country of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act.

In the wake of their independence, Eritrean Christians had to flee to Ethiopia to escape their hardships where they continue to boldly share their faith.  “They are actually seeing many from (various) religious backgrounds — Muslim and Orthodox — enter into a personal relationship with Jesus” says Greg Musselman, a spokesman for The Voice of the Martyrs Canada.

“Today, you’ve got anywhere between 3,000 to 4,000 Christians there who are imprisoned in shipping containers or military camps because of their faith.”  Can you imagine dealing with torture, acts of cruelty, random arrests and detention without charges? Musselman believes that these practices are as a result of the government’s belief that evangelical Christianity is “western” and is linked with the CIA (ERITREA: Refugees Boldly Testify of Christian Faith; Source: Mission Network News).

It is encouraging to know that despite the ban on their religious activities, the imprisonments and persecutions, the Eritrean Christians are holding on.  They have this assurance that they are not alone and that they are fighting the good fight which will carry them through these fiery trials.

“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life – Revelation 2:10

If you are moved to pray for the Christians in these countries, find out how at this link.

“Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” Hebrews 13:3

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; Voice of the Martyrs Canada; Open Doors; Church in Chains

Persecutions in Pakistan, Jordan and Niger

I received these recent persecution and prayer alerts from The Voice of the Martyrs Canada.  Please take time to read each one.  Pray for the loved ones of those who died for their faith and pray for those who are suffering for their faith.  Visit each story’s link to find out more and to see what you can do to help.  Each one of us can make a difference.

Persecution on the Rise for Christian Women and Girls in Pakistan

I just saw this prayer alert from The Voice of the Martyrs Canada.  Whenever I read these types of articles, I am thankful that I live in a country where there is religious liberty.  Imagine being brutally attacked for your faith.  Please read this story and pray for the victims and others like them who face persecution.  Be thankful that you can worship freely without fear of being attacked.

PAKISTAN: Sharp Rise in Attacks on Christian Girls and Women

Source: Release International

Pray for the safety of women in Pakistan.
Wikimedia Commons / Sonia Sevilla

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of Christian girls and women facing brutal assaults in Pakistan during recent months.

On November 28th, two Christian sisters (ages 14 and 16) were attacked in a village located within the Jaranwala district after they went out into the field to use the washroom. The girls’ family alleges that three males assaulted the sisters repeatedly overnight, and that they have since been threatened by the perpetrators with warnings not to press charges. They also claim that the police have obstructed attempts to gather medical evidence. Ministry partners of VOMC’s sister mission in the United Kingdom are ensuring the girls receive the medical care and legal assistance they need.

Elsewhere in Punjab, a 14-year-old girl was abducted on November 26th in Thatha Gondal. It is believed that she has been forcibly converted to Islam and married to her kidnapper. Local Christians and Muslims have been involved in negotiations to return the girl to her family.

Meanwhile, a pregnant mother of four from Rana Town was reportedly attacked after resisting a ruthless woman’s attempts to make her convert to Islam. The Christian mother was then brutally attacked by the instigator’s brothers. After stripping the pregnant mother of her clothing and disgracefully parading her in public, the men then robbed and finally beat the victimized believer to the point of unconsciousness. Local police initially refused to register a case, having only done so after our ministry partners intervened.

Please lift up in prayer all of these dear sisters in Christ, asking the Lord to surround each one with His sustaining love and grace. May He not only grant needed physical and emotional healing to the young girls who were assaulted, but also ensure they receive the support and encouragement of the members of their family and the wider community during this difficult time. Intercede on behalf of the young teen who still remains held captive by her kidnapper. May this girl soon be freed so she can return home to her loved ones. In addition, ask God to be especially near to the expectant mother who was so callously humiliated and beaten, praying that both she and her unborn child will be granted restored health and strength.

To post a prayer of encouragement for our persecuted sisters in Pakistan, visit VOMC’s Persecuted Church Prayer Wall.

Pray that the police will do their jobs and protect the victims.

Christian Woman’s Appeal Hearing Postponed

I received this Prisoner Release update in an email from The Voice of the Martyrs Canada.  Please read Asia’s story and pray for her and her family.  This young wife and mother was arrested since 2009 and has been in prison until now.  Imagine being separated from your family, anxiously awaiting an appeal only to have it postponed.   Pray that neither Asia nor her family will be discouraged by this major setback.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” – Romans 8:28.  God has plans for Asia just as He had plans for Joseph who was falsely accused of rape and thrown into prison.  God was with him all the time he was there just as He is with Asia.

I encourage you to visit the prayer wall and pray for Asia and other Christians like her who are being persecuted and imprisoned for their faith and the families of those brave men and women who have died for their faith.

PAKISTAN: Asia Bibi’s Appeal Hearing Postponed

Sources: Asia News, Release International


Remember in prayer
Asia’s husband and children.

The appeal hearing for Asia Bibi, a Christian woman imprisoned for blasphemy, has been postponed “to a later date.” Asia was arrested in 2009 on charges of insulting Mohammed and later sentenced to death. Since then, she has been waiting for her appeal to be heard while being held in isolation at the women’s prison in Sheikhupura (Punjab). (For more on Asia’s case, click here.)

Initially scheduled for March 17th, Asia’s first hearing was cancelled due to the absence of one of the two presiding judges. Under Pakistani law, two judges have to be present in death penalty cases for the entire trial.

The high-profile case remains hugely controversial in Pakistan. The former Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, was killed by his bodyguard in January of 2011 after showing support for Asia. Then, two months later, Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, was assassinated after voicing support for Asia and demanding reform of the country’s blasphemy laws. Shahbaz’s brother is now facing death threats. (For more on these threats, click here.) Late last year, Pakistan’s Federal Sharia Court demanded that blasphemy should carry a mandatory death sentence.

After this disappointing setback, pray that the Lord will continue to sustain Asia and her loved ones as they await the appeal hearing. May the judges and other authorities pursue justice, and may they also be protected from those who wish them harm as a result. Ask God to use this case for His good purposes, transforming the hearts and lives of those who do not yet know Him and encouraging believers to be courageous in their faith.

To share your prayers for Asia and her family, please visit our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall.

Polio Vaccines

I was appalled when I learned of the Nigerian women who were gunned down because they were giving out polio vaccines.  They were killed by gunmen suspected of belonging to a radical Islamic sect shot and killed at least nine as they took part part in a polio vaccination drive in northern Nigeria on Friday, February 8, 2013.  Residents of Kano, Nigeria’s largest city, predominantly Muslim were shocked.  This area is where women usually went from house to house to carry out the polio vaccination drives since families felt safer having them in their homes instead of men.  This attack is a result based on the belief fueled by clerics that the vaccines were part of a Western plot to sterilize young girls.

Washington’s State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned the killing and injuring of health workers in Nigeria.  “They were engaged in life-saving work, trying to vaccinate children,” she told reporters. “Any violence that prevents children from receiving basic life-saving vaccines is absolutely unacceptable wherever it happens.”  It is suspected that Boko Haram had been behind the shootings.  Witnesses spoke in anonymity out of fear of angering the sect whose name means “Western education is sacrilege”.

The suspicion surrounding polio vaccinations in Nigeria was kindled in 2003 when a Kano physician heading the Supreme Council for Shariah in Nigeria said the vaccines were “corrupted and tainted by evildoers from America and their Western allies.” This remark led to hundreds of new infections in children in Nigeria’s north where beggars on locally made wooden skateboards dragged their withered legs back and forth in traffic, begging for alms. The 2003 disease outbreak in Nigeria eventually spread throughout the world,  even causing infections in Indonesia.  Nigeria is one of three countries where polio remains endemic.  Afghanistan and Pakistan are the other two.  Imagine last year Nigeria registered 121 new cases of polio infections. This is more than half of all cases reported around the world, according to data from the World Health Organization.

Attacks on health workers giving out polio vaccines are not limited to Nigeria.  The National Post did an article on how the polio vaccine program in Pakistan was proving to be lethal for health workers.  Last year in December, eight of them, mostly young, female and poorly paid were murdered in Karachi and northwestern Pakistan.   Militants in Pakistan have accused health workers of acting as spies for the U.S., alleging that the vaccine is intended to make Muslim children sterile.  This accusation comes after it was revealed that a Pakistani doctor ran a fake vaccination program to help the CIA track down and kill al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden.  The UN has suspended the vaccine program until it’s safe enough to restart.  This may be indefinite unless the government steps in and does something to curb the escalating violence.  In the meantime, foreign aid workers are either being killed or abducted for ransom and teenage girls volunteering to prevent the spread of polio are being killed.  The World Health Organization (WHO) suspended its polio vaccination programme in Karachi following the murders of five members of polio vaccination teams.  All were women and the youngest was 14 years old.  They were all Pakistani nationals working on behalf of WHO and its local partners.

Polio (poliomyelitis) is a contagious disease that can be prevented by vaccination. It is spread from person to person and through contaminated food and water. Polio can attack the central nervous system and destroy the nerve cells that activate muscles.  It is heartbreaking to know that children are are going to suffer from this viral disease which can affect their nerves and lead to partial or full paralysis because certain local populations are refusing to allow their children to receive the vaccine.  The communities are worried about sterilization but what about paralysis or in some cases, death?  Why don’t they educate themselves and learn more about how the vaccine works before they flat out refuse to have it administered to their children?

The poliomyelitis ( polio ) vaccine protects against poliovirus infections. The vaccine helps the body produce antibodies (protective substances) that will prevent an individual from contracting polio.  This protects both both individual vaccine recipients and the wider community.  There are two types of vaccine that protect against polio: inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) and oral polio vaccine (OPV). IPV, used in the United States since 2000, is given as an injection in the leg or arm, depending on patient’s age.  Most people should get polio vaccine when they are children.  OPV has not been used in the United States since 2000 but is still used in many parts of the world.

A global effort to eradicate polio, led by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and The Rotary Foundation, began in 1988 and has relied largely on the oral polio vaccine developed by Albert Sabin.  The disease was entirely eradicated in the Americas by 1994. Polio was officially eradicated in 36 Western Pacific countries, including China and Australia in 2000.   Europe was declared polio-free in 2002.   Since January 2011, there were no reported cases of the disease in India, and hence in February 2012, the country was taken off the WHO list of polio endemic countries. It is reported that if there are no cases of polio in the country for two more years, it will be declared as a polio-free country.

It is high time that Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan be declared as polio-free countries.  The government needs to protect the health workers who are risking their lives to protect the communities.  It’s time the governments of these countries got serious about eradicating polio so that children are not condemned to living the rest of their lives in wheelchairs or on crutches.  The people need to be educated.  They need information that would counter the tales that polio vaccination is a ploy of the West to spread infidel practices.

It’s time for the governments of Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan to stand up and do what is best for their young and vulnerable.  And if nothing is done to stop the spread of this virus, these nations will become crippled and sick.  It’s time to take action.  It’s time to put aside your fears and protect your children and their future.

His parents fear OPV will render his son impotent and that he will never be able to produce children in case of vaccination. Despite repeated attempts, they didn’t understand the significance of the vaccine. As a result, their child is disabled for entire life.SOURCE: Rantburg 2013-02-10 05:25:00

They were engaged in lifesaving work, trying to vaccinate children … Any violence that prevents children from receiving basic life-saving vaccines is absolutely unacceptable, wherever it happens..SOURCE: Arkansas Online 2013-02-09 11:11:00

Having children made us look differently at all these things that we take for granted, like taking your child to get a vaccine against measles or polio.
Melinda Gates

When I was about 9, I had polio, and people were very frightened for their children, so you tended to be isolated. I was paralyzed for a while, so I watched television.
Francis Ford Coppola

polio vaccine

Sources:  http://http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/witnesses-nigeria-sect-group-attacks-polio-drives-18437814; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002375/; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polio_vaccine; http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/12/20/pakistans-polio-vaccine-program-proving-lethal-for-health-workers/; http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/tmp-pmv/info/polio-eng.php; http://www.healthofchildren.com/P/Polio-Vaccine.html; http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=149114&Cat=8; http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/polio/default.htm; http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/polio/quotes/; http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/polio.html#76XBp9gi2wMCs364.99

The Malala Fund

I got this in an email from Vital Voices and thought I should share it with you.  The mission of Vital Voices  is to identify, invest in and bring visibility to extraordinary women around the world by unleashing their leadership potential to transform lives and accelerate peace and prosperity in their communities.  Help them by supporting the Malala Fund so that they could fulfill this brave teenager’s dream of access to education for all.  Think of the little girls you will be helping.  Think about your daughters and granddaughters and how fortunate they are to be able to graduate from high-school and college and enter into the workforce.

malala%20hero%20draft%203

Dear A.,

 

Last month, teenage activist and blogger Malala Yousafzai was targeted for her outspoken advocacy and support for girls’ education. She was shot by the Taliban near her school in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, and the world took notice. Hundreds of thousands have voiced their support and sent messages to Malala, who continues to receive critical care on her long road to recovery.

In commemoration of Malala Day — November 10 — championed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN Special Envoy for Education Gordon Brown, Vital Voices is launching the Malala Fund on behalf of Malala and her family, working together with supporting advisors and friends of the cause, including the United Nations Foundation and Girl Up, and several other organizations and individuals.

I spoke with Malala’s father this week from her bedside at the hospital in Birmingham. He said Malala is doing well on her long road to recovery, and they feel blessed with the outpouring of support. She’s received cards and messages from girls all over the world thanking her for her courage and for giving them a voice. The Fund will support the education and empowerment of girls in Pakistan and around the world by providing grants to civil society organizations and individuals focused on education. It will be advised by a committee comprising education experts and entrepreneurs, as well as Malala — when she is well enough — and her family.

This is such an important cause and we are proud to do our part to contribute. Today, the right to education is denied to 61 million children of primary school age, including 32 million girls. This is a statistic we have the power to change.

Please raise your voice on behalf of Malala and the millions of girls who struggle to get their voices heard. Support the Malala Fund and together, we will help a teenage girl from Pakistan fulfill her dream of access to education for all.

Warmly,

 

 

Donate Now

Summer News: SOC Films Documentary Series

I wanted to share this email from Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, the first Pakistani woman to win an Oscar for her film Saving Face in 2012 and one of TIME Magazine’s most influencial people of the world.

Dear Friends,

A lot has happened since the Academy Awards in February in LA…I have begun work on a new series of documentary films which are being aired for the first time on TV Channels across Pakistan-

In a unique partnership with Coca-Cola, my production company SOC Films has launched a 6 part documentary series titled “Ho Yaqeen” featuring Pakistanis doing extraordinary things and transforming their communities.

The first episode of the series launched 2 weeks ago: Please do tune in to watch it, links are below:

Part1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMO2M9s4Lxs
Part2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uZXt3hJBno

Please do share these links with friends and family….

In other news, i was very fortunate to have been named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most Influential people in the world- (http://goo.gl/OFVhZ)
This positive reinforcement helps us get the message of our Academy Award winning film Saving Face out.

As more episodes of Ho Yaqeen become available i shall send them out on this mailing list. I am also involved in two more exciting documentary ventures outside of Pakistan which i shall share with you later in the summer….

All my very best
Sharmeen

You can check out Sharmeen’s website at:  http://sharmeenobaidfilms.com/bio/  I will keep you posted on Sharmeen’s exciting ventures. 

SUMMIT of Women Leaders that Care

I got this email today and wanted to share it with you.

A Celebration of Women TM
presents…
SUMMIT of Women Leaders that Care 

“WOMAN of ACTION: Key to Equity, Justice and Peace “
Saturday, March 24, 2012
10:00am until 5:00pm, networking & meet the Speakers until 7PM
A Celebration of WomenTM is a global organization born to celebrate the lives of women leaders from around the globe. Conceived in 2009, this organi…zation today houses hundreds of women leaders inside an Alumni named WOMEN of ACTION. Each and every woman attached to this SUMMIT is a member of our Alumni.

 

From Dr. Chen’s work with the Body Shop’s Stop Sex Trafficking campaign, Dr. Sharif’s account of “An Afghan Woman’s Journey”, Dr. Shabnam Nazli, founder of Hope Development Organization now A Celebration House™, Mama Zuma with Rosetta Standard’s organization ZIMELE, talking about sustainable micro business development, Diane Longboat, A Mohawk from Six Nations, Grand River Territory and after all of this, we will be surprising you with a Celebration of our premiere MAN of ACTION – a treat that you will not want to miss ( this gent is a real Gem, and A Celebration of Women will find those Gems inside the matrix of our society) …..

After this journey you will never be the same, as these women will awaken, inspire and motivate you to TAKE ACTION where and when you are, transforming the world around you. This experience will leave you breathless, in tears of joy and filled with the energy required to act, loving wholeheartedly the simple truths of being a WOMEN of ACTION.Limited seating so reserve your tickets now at www.acelebrationofwomen.org
**************************************************************
TICKETS $80.00 per person before March 23; $90.00 at the door; Groups of 10 for $500.00Saturday, March 24, 2012 from 9:30am – 5:00pm
Networking 5:00pm -7:00pm
@ The Centre for Women’s Studies in Education (CWSE) in the OISE building at UofT
252 Bloor Street West
**************************************************************
Featuring….

Dr. Loretta Chen, PhD
Social Activist
Ambassador to The Body Shop’s Stop Sex Trafficking
Hermes’ PS I Silk You outreach program for underprivileged girls
Evian’s Live Young Campaign

Dr. Sharifa Sharif, PhD
Author – On the Edge of Being: An Afghan Women’s Journey
Cultural Advisor for Afghanistan in Canada

Rosetta Standard and Mama Zuma
Zimele, A program which seeks to develop self-sustainable communities through creating self-help savings groups, microbusinesses, mentorships, and non-profit projects

Diane Longboat
Kahontakawas is from the Turtle Clan
A Mohawk from Six Nations, Grand River Territory
Traditional Teacher, Ceremonial Leader

Dr. Shabnam Nazli, PhD
Founder, Hope Development Organization now A Celebration House focuses on Women’s Rights in Pakistan

Monika and Graham Burwise
Founder, Global Awakening Institute

and much more…

ORDER Online at www.acelebrationofwomen.org
Tickets $80.00 before March 23rd – Get your tickets now!

About US

A Celebration of Women™ is the FIRST global forum where Women Leaders are being ‘celebrated’ for spearheading positive action. A transformation of the Women’s Movement has begun through our WORLD HUB ~ Wheel of Women Leaders that Care. Through the creation of our alumni WOMEN of ACTION the butterfly effect has begun through local changes resulting in global differences.

Our WOMEN of ACTION are trailblazers in this millennium pioneering the new woman’s movement, “Equality of Women among Women”, working to create a sustainable socio-economic independence for all Women. True to its advocacy mandate, A Celebration of Women™ is the world hub for all NGOs to celebrate their founders, collaborate in their missions and TAKE ACTION.

We haven’t forgot you MEN, our MEN of ACTION aren’t that far behind, we’re actively looking for YOU! Come and join us and meet our FIRST MAN of ACTION. Through our celebration of positive action that is taking place in our world, we attract more women and men to become leaders and TAKE ACTION in their communities.

Are you ready to join us, and become a WOMAN or MAN of ACTION?

Breakdown in the Closet

MAMA: Motherhood Around the Globe, explores the realities and ideas of a new global generation of mothers through art, stories, and powerful new voices. The exhibition aims to turn inspiration into action helping fuel a worldwide movement of advocates for mothers’ human rights and advances in maternal health. Just recently I got an email from them to vote for our favorite community piece. The voting ended February 29.  The finalists were very impressive.  They were as follows:

Each of these stories represents an important, and unique, aspect of motherhood around the globe.  I voted for Birthmarkings because it explores self-image and how our bodies change after we have children.  Some women feel self-conscious and unattractive.  I never felt unattractive because of my husband.  He always made me feel beautiful.  My self-image after birth has not changed.  My changed body is a reminder for me of how blessed I am to be a mother.

The winner of this competition is Humaira Abid’s Breakdown in the Closet.  What a concept.  Six wooden hangers in a closet–two of them bare.  These two hangers depict the pain and disappointment that comes along with miscarriage—a frequently unspoken part of many women’s experiences of pregnancy and motherhood.  The clothes look so real.  It’s hard to believe that they are made of wood.  We see the mother’s dress and the father’s pants and shirts.  This is a family wardrobe.  A husband and wife are expecting a child but tragedy strikes.  On the floor between the mother’s and the father’s clothes, we notice something that stands out in sharp contrast–the red baby shirt.  This is meant to represent the mother’s miscarriage and both parents’ loss.

Humaira explains that this work is a part of a series called “RED” named such because the color red represents love, passion, blood, anger, and loss–all strong emotions. Yes in the subcontinent, red is the traditional color of bridal dresses, and often is associated with love, sexuality, and fertility. Yet in some parts of Africa, red is a color of mourning and death-often associated with the color of blood. She herself suffered from miscarriages so she knows how tough this can take both a physical and emotional toll on women.

As the winner, Humaira Abid receives a US$1,000 prize, with $500 going to the artist and $500 going to a nonprofit charity of her choice!  Notes to Women congratulate this amazing artist who uses her work to a very painful experience for women.  Unfortunately miscarriage is very common, occurring in about one in five pregnancies.  Some women feel a strong sense of guilt, even though it is not their fault. These are natural reactions.

Breakdown in the Closet brilliantly and skillfully addresses a topic that is very difficult for women.  Humaira’s work recognized internationally for its originality and excellence has earned her a gold medal. Her work has been exhibited in Malaysia, India, Mauritius, Nepal, Kenya, Dubai, Bolivia, Germany, Russia, UK and USA. Humaira graduated from National College of Arts Lahore, Pakistan with Honors in the year 2000. She majored in Sculpture, with Miniature as her double minor.  We salute this internationally renown artist who uses her art to take action against the issue of gender inequality.  Brava Humaira.

We are pleased to announce that last month Humaira had her first child.  Congratulations, Humaira.  We wish mother and baby all the best.

If you are interested in seeing more of Humaira’s art, check out her website at:  http://www.humaira.com.pk/

I am from a country and society where showing your emotions and expressing your opinion is not welcomed–especially if you are a woman. Many experiences and roles of women are not properly appreciated. They are simply considered to be their duty or part of life.

I am trying to raise these issues through my work, which counters the stereotypical image of women in a male dominated society. In an environment where women have a considerable way to go to become full partners of men, I want my work to reflect the aspiration for gender equality.

Source:  http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/diseases/facts/miscarriage.htmhttp://mama.imow.org/yourvoices/breakdown-closet

Pakistan’s Senate Passes Domestic Violence Bill

I read this evening on the website for Violence is Not Our Culture about the passing of domestic violence bill in Pakistan.  VNC congratulated their partners Baidarie Sialkot and Shirkat Gah and other civil society groups and women’s human rights activists who have been campaigning over the past few years to pass this bill.

Baidarie Sialkot is a non-government and non-profit organization which was established in 1993 by the rural women of UC Roras who were keen to work for the empowerment and development of the women of the area. It carries out its operations without having religious, lingual, political and social discriminations to motivate the rural communities, particularly women, to take an active part in the social developmental process. The organization strives hard to develop women into active, productive and dynamic citizens of the country.

Shirkat Gah literally means a place of participation. It was formed as a non hierarchical collective in 1975 by a group of women with a shared perspective on women’s rights and development.

The organizations’ fundamental goal was to encourage women to play a full and equal role in society by promoting and protecting the social and economic development of women already participating in, or wanting to participate in, the national development.

The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) bill makes violence against women and children an offence carrying jail terms and fines, state media said.  It was introduced by Senator Nilofar Bakhtiar and passed unanimously by the upper house of the federal parliament, Pakistan Television reported.  It was passed unanimously in the National Assembly, the lower house in parliament almost three years ago in August 2009.  It will come into effect after it is signed into legislation by President Asif Ali Zardari.

Under this bill those found guilty of beating women or children will face a minimum six months behind bars and a fine of at least 100,000 rupees ($1,100).  In addition to protecting children and women, it provides protection to the adopted, employed and domestic associates in a household.

The law classifies domestic violence as acts of physical, sexual or mental assault, force, criminal intimidation, harassment, hurt, confinement and deprivation of economic or financial resources.   In the past if a man beat her wife or children, the police could not arrest him because it was considered a domestic affair.  Now, thanks to the passing of this bill, the police can step in and make an arrest.

Human rights groups say that Pakistani women suffer severe discrimination, domestic violence and so-called “honour” killings.  This means that a victim is murdered for allegedly bringing dishonour upon her family.  I read that in Afghanistan running away from an abusive husband or a forced marriage are considered “moral crimes”, for which women are currently imprisoned.  Rape victims are imprisoned because sex outside marriage, even when the woman is forced, is considered adultery, another “moral crime”.  I cannot believe that the woman who is abused by her husband is imprisoned.  I fail to see how rape can be classified as adultery which is consensual sex between two people outside of marriage.  Rape is not about sex.  It is a violent act.  And rape victims should be protected not treated like criminals.   It would be really great if Afghanistan were to pass a similar bill.

It is believed that the spread of Islamist fundamentalism is increasingly isolating the women in Pakistan, especially in the areas where the Taliban are.  Thankfully this bill will change things in the Pakistani women’s favor.  Men will no longer get away with their crimes.

It is truly a victory for Pakistan and especially the women and children whose rights are finally going to be protected.  This is a testimony that awareness + action = change.

Source:  http://abusehelplines.org/2012/02/21/pakistans-senate-unanimously-passes-domestic-violence-bill/