A Canadian BPCA volunteer was invited to present as a local example of women affecting peaceful change by the regional Alberta & Northwest Territories
animator of Caritas Development & Peace, Ms. Monica Nico.
The event Women at the Heart of Peacemaking 'May Peace Be With Her' , which was held at Neuman Seminary and College in Edmonton, Canada on September 9th:
"...celebrated women’s peace initiatives around the world and learn what we can do to advocate in our communities and support their frequently marginalized
efforts," and "... paid tribute to the women who build peace in communities around the world in a way that recognizes their integral role in preventing,
ending, and recovering from armed conflict."
Development and Peace held the event to encourage attendees from the Catholic Archdiocese to be peace builders in their communities and to use
both words and action to promote "just international development that ensures women and girls are empowered to reach their full potential."
Keri-Lynn Gibbs, an adult educator and regular contributor to Diversity Magazine promotes intercultural understanding in her English language
column, and was invited to speak. She also penned an article raising the alarm about the sexual harassment of Maherwar Ishaq by a Pakistani Embassy
official in Thailand. Ms. Nico was moved by Keri-Lynn's commitment to increased "awareness and action to stand in Solidarity with Pakistani Christian
women in Thailand who are facing adverse conditions, discrimination, and violence" and her "pragmatic approach to human rights and peace activism encourages
people to move from simply caring to actively doing." To see more details about her work (click here)
Nico further reflecting upon the presentation said:
"It takes trust, courage, and faith to understand that we are not called to be silent, but in trust do as God is calling us to do...As I heard you speaking
and as I heard the your story and the situation of the Pakistani Christians in Thailand, I thought to myself that sometimes we believe that something
is too big for us to tackle or to do something about it, however we forget that is not us who can do things but in God we can do everything, and your
determination, faith and courage to speak up and break this silence on behalf of the people of God is truly an invaluable example of what it really
means to be moved by our faith and to act to promote justice."
Earlier that day Dr. Bob McKeon spoke on Pope Francis’ challenging address to the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Popular Movements. He related,
"This is a call for an engaged solidarity with the grass roots organizations and social movements from across the globe who are leading the struggle for social justice. The popular movements include excluded workers, farmers, women, slum dwellers, Indigenous peoples. The main themes are Work, Land and Home."
A quote Dr. McKeon shared from Bishop Elroy that was included in communique from Pope Francis incorporated a line of thought that articulated "disrupting"
the status quo while not neglecting "rebuilding" tied well into Ms. Gibbs comments later in the day about restoring broken walls: the the societal
boundaries and the protections of institutions to religious minorities in Pakistan that do not seem to exist for them. In her appeal to action and
invitation to the September 30th Rally on the steps of the Alberta Legislature, Keri-Lynn shared :
"According to a Movement of Solidarity and Peace - Muslim NGO - 1000 girls and women from religious minorities are kidnapped, raped and forced into Islamic marriage every year. Sometimes these young women are even taken by force directly out of the family home while their families helplessly watch...
"Police delay responses to [violence targeting Christians like] church bombings, and security guards assigned to protect churches have been known to harass women coming to and from or even right at church.
"On August 27th on this year a new high school student - a bright young man by the name of Sharoon Masih was murdered in his classroom by his fellow pupils on the fourth day of school as his teacher was reading the newspaper or drinking tea - they can't really get their story straight. All of these institutions are supposed to protect people and enforce the law."
As she broke the silence on the conditions facing Pakistani Christians both in Thailand (where even UN Persons of Concern are subject to arbitrary imprisonment),
and in their homeland, that has been seemingly been either ignored or tolerated by the World, Keri-Lynn related how she was warned by more than one
person to "Be careful what you are saying and doing is dangerous."
Keri-Lynn responded that peace is not an unperturbed state of being to be preserved but the equipment necessary to affect change in perilous times.
"Peace is not something to hold in silence (as in hold your peace), it is something we wear so we can demonstrate bold acts of kindness."
Keri-Lynn describing the active nature of peace expounded:
"Shoes are the basic equipment that allow us to step on uncomfortable and even dangerous surfaces and so is it any wonder that the the Bible refers to "peace" as shoes and it even says that the God of Peace will crush the army of accusations and intimidation under His feet.
"As Albertans surely we have an appreciation for approaching a dirty or dangerous job in proper foot gear. Here in Alberta we recognize the effective standard of a well constructed cowboy boot, and steel toes and follow the adage "dress for the weather" this is exactly how God's peace equips us and makes it possible to operate in dangerous places and to have difficult conversations."
"Peace is something I see demonstrated when I speak with officers of the BPCA like Mehwish Bhatti who while dealing with the distress around her reminds me that "we serve a living God" and Maherwar Ishaq who while in hiding reminds me that "God takes care of us" or Wilson Chowdhry who tirelessly reports incident after violent incident of indentured servitude, assaults, rapes and murder and dares the world to listen.
"Many Pakistani Christians are dying for the peace that they have in their hearts...
"Even Jesus, when being struck by the soldiers during his crucifixion asked, 'Why are you hitting me?' He appealed to the conscience [of the people attacking him] and asked them to explain why they were behaving that way.
"One friend, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide told me that if 1% speak up that things can change. People need to not be afraid to talk about what is happening to Pakistani Christians... It should be no provocation to ask why. We need to break the silence."
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:
The Bible tells us 'blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God'. A reflection of the great emphasis on the ministry of reconciliation that was first taught through Jesus Christ, who came to heal the bond between God and sinners.
"Women across the globe often put themselves at great risk in trying to bring peace where conflict exists. I will never forget the courage and bravey of the three Angels of Woolwich who rushed to aid and comfort Lee Rigby, a soldier killed by two Islamic extremists in 2014 (click here).
"It requires great strength to stand up and challenge the bad we see in this world, which is why such acts of kindness are rare. Haters will attack those who speak the truth and stand up for truth and often the champions of peace simply feel isolated.
"I hope that this celebration of peace initiatives led by women inspires others to share this common responsibility - after all the Bible tells us together we are stronger."
"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil." Ecclesiates 4:9