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Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Ascot Day (not to be confused with the horse race) a day to be cherished!

The unclear image does no justice in depicting the beautiful decor within the church.  Wilson is speaking at the  front of the steps he declined the pulpit as his presentation was not religious.
All smiles in a warm and friendly church.

 Wilson's daughters' found the church comfortable enough for them to "do their own thing"
 We have no idea why they are holding the bottle of milk? 
 Revd Daryl Hannah helps set up the projector for the presentation.
 Tech support was provided by an additional parishioner when the equipment decided to go rogue.
 After the presentation some of the church joined us in a show of solidarity against persecution.
 After the church service Wilson was in constant dialogue with parishioners craving more knowledge.  Juliet and Hannah had their picture taken by little Naomi.
 Wilson's middle daughter Naomi showed how comfortable she was in the company of this warm part of our Christian family.  She fell asleep in the house of those who fed and entertained us, between the service and follow-up presentation.

Many readers have asked for a report back on our visit to Ascot to speak at All Saints Church.  As my family and I travelled to the church we were blessed with good weather and clear traffic meaning that we arrived at the church at an appropriate time before the service.  We have come to expect warm welcomes when we attend churches giving presentations, however the parishioners at All Saints and the clergy pulled out all stops to make us feel welcome, and this added to a very inspiring day for all.

I was asked to give a short 10 minute address during the church service around 10:00am which was attended by close to 100 people.  This was to be followed up with a longer presentation in the small hall later at around 2.30pm. 

The PowerPoint I prepared for the service was unusable due to a lack of facilities, as a consequence I hurriedly wrote some note and prayed to God to give me the write words.  

It seems that despite my unpreparedness God infused a passion amongst parishioners and visitors to the church, many of whom spoke of gaining knowledge of the concerns in Pakistan for the first time.  I was kept busy for an hour and a half, talking to numerous Church people responding to questions and describing the situation for Pakistani Christian's to an avid and concerned parish.  The church kindly paid for our travel costs, they also undertook a collection for the BPCA which amounted to £255. 

This churches passionate response was very encouraging and illustrated that with effective promulgation of our concerns, to  a wider church audience we can galvanise the necessary support to affect change in Pakistan.  Our small community will pose an ineffectual voice if it proceeds with insular campaigns geared at uniting a widespread tiny diaspora (8175 Pakistani Christians' registered in UK - 2001 Census) many of whom are not easily traceable.  When we are born again as Christians' we automatically become part of a much larger global family.  Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour when told of the arrival of his family at a house in which he was preaching, reminded those before him of the strong tie that is induced by becoming part of the church:

31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!

35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

There are those in our community that believe when the BPCA challenges wider churches to join our protest that we dilute the work of our community.  I have always challenged this notion and would argue that our community is not one based on a cultural or land origin, but on the precepts of our faith.  For instance, many of our brethren are unavailable to us, due to having acclimatised themselves into the western churches and not being in touch with Urdu churches.  I myself am from this band of Christian followers and do not separate myself out as a Pakistani Christian due to a belief that this particular classification holds any tangible worth.

I only refer to myself with this description that I might challenge the persecution and equality my brothers and sisters in Pakistan face daily.  My intent with this description of myself  is to draw attention to the existence of Christians in the homeland.  Prior to Gojra 2009 I would not have referred to myself in this fashion.  I hope to be able to drop this title one day, as a consequence of a safer future for minorities in Pakistan.

I digress and promptly return to Ascot and the awesome day that my family enjoyed with our brothers and sisters residing there. 

Around 20 people came back to our later presentation a strong number when compared with the size of the original congregation at the church.   People came not because of the guest speaker but through a desire to know more of the situation in Pakistan. 

Numerous questions were asked and people had an insatiable thirst for knowledge.  Fortunately at the end of service tea fellowship and the ensuing Q&A session after my presentation, the organising committee managed to draw me away from parishioners, not for my sake, but recognising my wife and children were fatigued.  This care and attention is how we were dealt with all day and we could not have felt more welcome.

After the event I was told by an elderly parishioner that she had cried on hearing the reports of how Asia Bibi and Shazia Bashir were treated and the ongoing injustices.  Quite clearly throughout the day, many of these churchgoers had been ignorant to the persecution that Pakistani Christians faced and were shaken by the few tragic accounts that I was able to describe in a short time. 

The icing on the cake for me was the offer from Reverend Daryl Hannah to speak at our 3rd March protest. 

This has not yet been cemented in his diary but a proverbial dark shade of graphite has been used to enter the event into his diary.
Rev Hannah an eloquent speaker introducing Wilson before his presentation with a prayer.  Pray God positions him to be able to inspire others at our protest on the 3rd March 2012.

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