Our vision is to create a network of Pakistanis united in Christ, focused on better quality of life, fellowship and religious freedom for Christians in Pakistan and the UK.
Shama's father, Mukhtar Masih, and children L-R Sonia, Poonam and Suleman pray with BPCA officer Mehwish Bhatti
One way which Churches and Christian groups can contribute to the work of the BPCA (Click here)
Today is 4th November. Not remarkable in any way, the day before Guy Fawkes Day - a cold, ordinary November day here in the UK. Yet this date is forever emblazoned in my memory as it marks the day Sonia, Poonam and Suleman were robbed of their parents, both on the same day, both killed in the same cruel and inhumane way. Such a double loss would be a tragedy in any circumstances, but these children’s parents were lynched, beaten and burnt to death by a Muslim mob for alleged ‘blasphemy’ and thrown alive into the brick kiln where they worked. Let us imagine, as best we can, as adult westerners, what these children have gone through. Very young, knowing only poverty which saw several older siblings farmed out to relatives who could support them, they would not understand that their parents were borderline slaves, working as ‘bonded labourers’. They would never have known that their pregnant mother was being sexually abused by the accountant/manager at the brick kiln, nor that their parents were being cheated of their wages and debt repayments, a typical occurence.
When their grandfather died, Shama, their mother, cleaned out his house and burned some magic occult papers as being Christian she was against this and wanted no trace of it left. This was the trigger for accusations of blasphemy by Muslim neighbours who claimed she was burning holy words from the Quran. The children likely wouldn't know that in villages all around, imams were using mosque loud-speakers to urge villagers to punish the blasphemous unbelievers.
We know that at least one of the children witnessed some of what happened when that mob arrived at the brick kiln office where their parents had been forcibly locked up. Thankfully they were then whisked away to safety by an uncle. If they had seen it all, this is what they would have witnessed. They would have seen the mob storm the office and drag the young couple out. They would have witnessed their parents be stripped naked and dragged around the village whilst being savagely beaten so that every limb was broken. Eventually they would have seen their parents being thrown – reportedly still alive – into the brick kiln where they had laboured as virtual slaves. According to some reports, when their mother wouldn’t burn, she was taken out and covered in fuel, and thrown back in. They would have seen the police officers present do nothing to try and stop the lynching of these despised Christians that was unfolding in front of them, not even to fire their guns in the air to try and break up the mob. Imagine the trauma. Any child would be confused and grief-stricken if they lost their parents suddenly and horrifically on the same day, and any child would be left with a yearning ache and longing which only their parents can fill.
The British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) has undertaken to help look after Sonia, Poonam and Suleman as best we can. We are providing them with shelter and we have employed a full time nanny, Elizabeth Dildar, to bring some semblance of stability, love and care. Nanny does the normal household tasks such as laundry and meals and homework supervision, similar to that which parents would provide, and she is very loving with the children. We feel that the children having the nanny is paramount to ensure that they receive appropriate physical and spiritual growth as the task is too great for their aging grandfather to shoulder alone. Nanny Elizabeth's duties include preparing them for school, checking school bags are correctly filled, lunch is made and uniforms are ready, and taking the children to and from school. In addition she prays with them, teaches them scriptures, and plays with them. She provides much needed emotional support and affection and we hope and pray that this care and nurture continues to be healing for Sonia, Poonam and Suleman.
Unlike many other groups who arrive, take photos, and claim they are doing something, it is clear that we really are. As long as funds permit, we will also continue to help provide food which costs about £50 per month. One bright spot is that the children seem to be very well treated at school by children and teachers alike. They have not had to protect their identity and have faced no bullying, in fact they are progressing well. When our officer Mehwish visited them recently, she was warmly welcomed, but as the children grow older, naturally they are asking questions about the murder of their parents.
One of the girls often wakes crying out for her ‘Mama’ and the eldest is starting to ask questions about who killed their parents, if they still out there, and will they come back to kill us, particularly after reporters come and ask questions. These are still deeply traumatised children, with impoverished family members trying to help and protect them. They are trying to hide the reality, which is that although some fraction of the mob has been arrested, and a smaller fraction charged, on previous performance it is highly likely that they will go free and not be jailed, and similarly previous experience would suggest that that the three imams who incited the murder Mohammad Hussain, Arshad Baloch and Noorul Hassan will be exonerated.
Of the 620 people implicated in the original police report after the murder of Shama and Shahzad, only 126 culprits have been arrested. A further 32 are being examined, the rest of the mob are fugitives. Bail has been cancelled for all the culprits who await sentencing but the maternal grandfather Mukhtar Masih has reported to us that he has received intermittent threats from family and friends of those arrested promising violence unless the case is withdrawn. He said:
"We receive continuous threats to withdraw the case by the perpetrators' families from nearby towns – they come to the house and make threats. I will not give up justice for my daughter Shama and her husband Shahzad, they were innocent and the guilty must be punished. No father should see his daughter die before him and the brutality that my daughter went through, brings me to tears every time I think of it. None of the culprits have ever shown any remorse and this hurts the most - my daughter's life meant nothing to them."
In the meantime a custody battle ensues over one of the children which is causing great turmoil for the grandfather and the children who are uncertain of their future. The family will be holding a private memorial today to remember the young couple killed in their prime before they could see their children grow, leaving behind four orphans. BPCA Officer Naveed Aziz is one of the few non-family members to be invited and he will be speaking at the event, we will share details on a later post. Please pray for the family who hold the event at 8 am (GMT), Pray for solace and peace and for the long awaited justice to come to fruition.
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the BPCA said;
"This tragic event has often been described as Pakistan's most brutal killing, the murder shocked the world and ostensibly the authorities in Pakistan. Yet to date the perpetrators have not been brought to justice. Four young children have been mentally and emotionally scarred for life and nothing can bring back their parents. If Pakistan wants to retrieve any form of reputation in the international arena they must ensure that lessons are learnt from the murder of this innocent young couple, and that the rule of law and not mob rule permeates throughout Pakistan in future."
"Charities such as ours have been left to protect and care for this family, taking on a state role. The promised compensation for the children are not so grand sums that have been left in trust till they reach adulthood, which does not help with their immediate concerns. This is another failing of the Pakistani Government, who need to review how they respond to victims of the polarised society that pervades in the country. The pittance received by the maternal grandfather, Mukhtar Masih, who is guardian for the children is shameful and an indication of the low worth set upon the lives of Christians in Pakistan."The family need prayers for protection, there are additional needs for the children, like basic furniture – three wooden beds, study tables and chairs, plus a wardrobe, which together will cost a little over £460. If funds permit we also would love to paint the house for the family as it is very spartan in design and has no homely atmosphere.
We at BPCA would like to offer a chance for people to help by funding these needs, as well as helping with ongoing school travel and grocery costs, since support from government sources has greatly reduced and now equates to 20,000 rupees per month (£123). Unfortunately the initial generosity for this family has dried up and we urge new one off and regular donors to prayerfully come and fill the gap so we can continue this and further services to this family.
Please help us to help these orphans, so that good can continue to come out of bad, and that the cycle of poverty and illiteracy can be broken in this case.
God's comfort and protection for these precious children as they cope with life without their parents.
Justice for Shama and Shahzad.
That we receive regular funds to enable us to continue providing the nanny, food and travel each month.
Funds for furniture, particularly beds as the children need these urgently, and decoration to make the house more homely and welcoming.
Please give what you can to help Sonia, Poonam and Suleman. Your gift can be sent using these bank details:
Sort Code: 20-44-22
Account number: 43163318
Ref: Love for Shama and Shahzad's Children
For international donations please use these details:
IBAN: GB62 BARC 20442243163318
Alternatively you can use the PayPal facility on the top right hand corner of our blog, our PayPal email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cheques should be made payable to the BPCA to our address: 57 Green Lane, Ilford, Essex, IG1 1XG.
BRITISH PAKISTANI CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION is a trading name for BRITISH PAKISTANI CHRISTIANS LTD which is a charity entered onto the Register of Charities with the Registered Charity Number 1163363
With your support we hope to change the lives of millions of Pakistani Christians.
Mehwish Bhatti taking time to check the children's homework. They are doing well at school.