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Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Awestruck by God's creation in the foothills of Wales.

Zeeshan doing his thing!

Wilson, Revd John Weir and Zeeshan after a scintillating service!

On a hot summer's night Juliet, Wilson and children travelled through the foothills of the Snowdonian range for a night of support for the Christians of Pakistan at Capel Rehoboth, Nant Peris, Gwynedd.  Sunday, 10th July was the monumental date, at which renowned soloist Zeshan Rahab from the Punjab joined the BPCA to share our culture, music, testimonies and reports on the situation in Pakistan with Welsh Christians.  We were joined by former Anglican Chaplain of the inter-denominational Holy Trinity Church, Dubai, Revd. John Weir - who incidentally also joined our protest on the 2nd July.  

The drive was on in which my family and I were awestruck on just how beautiful God's creation is.  The massive green hills we had to climb to get to the venue, left me shaking at the driving wheel.  I could not look down to my left as I have a slight fear of heights and can confirm that although it was exciting for my family and a pleasant journey for them - I have never felt closer to God, then when I was praying for safe arrival at the church.  

The event which is being hailed as the first of its kind in Wales was conducted in a myriad of languages, Welsh, English and Urdu.  The event kicked off with a welcome in Welsh by Elian the organiser who translated this into English.  Participants and visitors alike were then enthralled by the soft dulcet tones of the angelic singers from the local chapel choir.  

We then heard from Reverend John Weir who described the churches in  Dubai.  Rev Weir spoke of the desideratum for churches to operate in a clandestine fashion.  However, he stated that despite the threat of persecution and death for believers, the church has grown significantly both spiritually and physically.  He questioned the audience on how many Christians were in his group of churches in Dubai, and figures between 500 and 2000 were put forward.  You can imagine the surprise of the church when Rev Weir talked of a regular attendance of in excess of 10,000!

Rev Weir went on to describe how he found Zeeshan and instantly recognised his talents.  Zeeshan was working as a labourer in Dubai, after having emigrated from Pakistan seeking employment.  Obtaining a visa to the UK for Zeeshan to perform proved to be a difficult process.  At one stage it seemed an unassailable goal, until the kindly and timely intervention of Stephen Timms a Labour MP.  Since then Rev John and Zeeshan have set a schedule to travel up and down the country and their next stop will be the North of England and then on to Scotland after an invitation from George Dean.

Zeeshan's performance was both immaculate and elevating and although I am not a keen follower of Ghazals, the pitch perfect performance was one that was moving, especially after hearing Zeeshan's English translation of the lyrics of the song.  

The Pastor from the church spoke of the manner in which God's spirit transcends all language barriers, stating that God's energy could be felt through the passion of the singer and the evocative nature of the music.  

I had a cathartic moment at this point, as during a recent TV interview on Gateway TV I was pilloried by an infamous caller known as Romael Pervais, who insisted that a lack of of ability with Punjabi and Urdu language precluded me from representing Pakistani Christians.  Here I was about to speak on behalf of our community in English and I was bolstered with the knowledge that my English at this meeting would serve great purpose - a  language that would be universally known by all visitors!

I spoke of the persecution that our community faced describing incidents such as the wedding day accusation of a Quran desecration that led to the burning of 100 homes and 2 churches in Gojra, in August 2009.  I described the sordid and utterly detestable treatment of Shazia Bashir that 11 year old victim of rape, torture and death by starvation. I also described the deaths in Prison for Robert Danish and Qamar David held captive under false blasphemy charges and the shooting of Sajid and Wajid Masih outside the Faisalabad High Court, after being acquitted of false blasphemy charges.  

A case was put forward for freedom of Asia Bibi, the emblem of the Pakistan freedom movement as I described her words that sparked such outrage in Pakistan, that thousands of Muslims led protest marches calling for her death.  As I talked about the assassinations of  Shahbaz Bhatti and Governor Taseer I noticed the shock and surprise emanating around the room.  I queried whether the congregation had been aware of the persecution in Pakistan and unanimously the response was no.  This knowledge made the meeting worth its weight in gold, as I recognised that our Welsh brothers and sisters could now join us in prayer for Pakistan more informed on the diabolical nature of the existing societal structures in Pakistan.

I spoke a little more on the wider inequalities in Pakistan, including the biased constitution of Pakistan, the employment and educational disparity that pervades in the homeland and the overt lack of cultural cohesion.

The event then ended with some more songs form the Welsh choir on a night of hybrid worship, praise and prayer to our Almighty living God.

After the service I spoke with the Reverend John Pritchard of  Rehoboth Church, who is editor for the Christian interdenominational newspaper to the 4 main churches in Wales.  He is going to publish a report on the service and the situation in Pakistan and this could be the starting point for a major rally for justice from Welsh Christians.

On Thursday we had to refuse a visit to Parliament for a meeting with a Pakistani Senator due to the interview with Gateway TV. The meeting would have allowed us to raise concerns about the quality of life for minorities in Pakistan.  On Saturday I was compere for SS Peters and Paul's Catholic School Summer Fete where I am a school Governor, this meant I missed a meal with Senators, Federal Ministers and Kamran Michael our Christian Punjab Minister.  On Sunday whilst reaching out to Welsh Christians I had to forgo a meeting with Kamran Michael and others at Hounslow.  

There is only so much that can be done through our limited volunteers one in Newcastle and the other in Mauritius.  We desperately require local volunteers from London who would be willing to fill in as spokespersons for our group.  We are looking for young British Pakistani Christians or wider Christians, with a passion for change in Pakistan.

If you  would like to be more involved in the work of the BPCA please do make contact.

A local Welsh choir performed enviably!

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