To raise the plight of Asia Bibi and millions of other Christians faced with either deep set discrimination or severe persecution in Pakistan, a team of international humanitarian leaders from the community converged in Zurich to plan how to get the nation of Switzerland aware. In attendance were key figures from around the globe including Sarwar Bhatti from Italy representing All Pakistani Christian League, Advocate JJ George from France representing Pakistan Orient Christian Organisation, Samson Javed and Dr Akhtar Injeeli representing Pakistan Christian Press Club, Gulbaz Fazal from Holland, representing Overseas Pakistani Christian Alliance, Farooq Anwer representing Urdu Church Paris and Tasleem John representing European United Christian Action Committee.
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The gathering was organised by a new Pakistani Christian advocacy group named ‘Masih Overseas’ the first of their kind in Switzerland, who are supported by a local politician Silvio Foiera. They were seeking help with their first public campaign to make the nation of Switzerland aware of the plight of Pakistani Christians. Initially a plan was organised for a protest but after a rethink it was agreed that the group would organise a charity run within Greifenseelauf 2018 a 21km race close to the International Day of Peace declared by the UN (click here).
L-R Silvio Foiera, Wilson Chowdhry, Stephen Barkat, Noreen Barkat
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Mr Chowdhry (44 yrs) Chairman of the BPCA committed himself to help the Swiss Pakistani Christian group led by Noreen Barkat (36 yrs) and agreed to run a 21km race, after discovering the only runner was Noreen Barkat who was taking on a difficult 10km run. This meant there was little time to prepare or train as he had flown into Switzerland on the 21st and the race was the next day. The run was named the ‘Run for Freedom’ and will be organised by Noreen again next year.
On the day of the run, the amassed leaders prayed for the runners and for Asia Bibi, praying that she be given her opportunity for a Supreme Court Appeal as promised by Saqib Nisar in April this year (click here). While Wilson Chowdhry and Noreen Barkat ran all the other volunteers and leaders helped by distributing leaflets ensuring as many Swiss people as possible could learn about the plight of long-suffering Pak-Christians.
Both the runners completed their runs successfully in fact Wilson completed the run in 2 hours 21 minutes and came 490th out of 13,000 participants (click here). He explained to the BPCA team that every time he felt like stopping he focused on the length of time Asia Bibi has been incarcerated and imagined every step of his would bring her closer to freedom.
Noreen Barkat, Chairperson for Masih Overseas, said:
“I have been praying for Asia since I first heard of her captivity. I wanted to make Swiss people more aware of the difficulties faced by the Christian community of Pakistan simply for adhering to their faith.
“I am in touch with a Pakistani journalist who has met Asia and has described symptoms relating to her mental health such as memory loss and confusion, which I as an assistant nurse can clearly identify as early stages of dementia. Although she is not being treated for this in Pakistan and is simply being labelled as mad by prison staff.
“There is an immediate need for international politicians to seek professional psychological and psychiatric assistance for Asia so that her remaining years will not become an even longer term mental imprisonment.”
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:
“A lot of humanitarian leaders from the Pak-Christian community travelled to Switzerland with hope to help give a boost to the Masih Overseas campaign. I could not let it fail and therefore agreed to run 21K despite being untrained and unprepared.
“For me it was simple. No matter what pain I suffered it could not be even a large fraction of the pain that Asia Bibi has suffered for the last 9 years. She has been resolutely brave throughout her imprisonment and has not forsaken God, I am sure He will reward her greatly one day.
“No divine being needs human help which makes blasphemy laws so petty and ridiculous. Yet the intolerant nature of Muslims in Pakistan has meant an innocent mother of 5 has lost relationship with her family and through the onset of dementia, she may never be able to bond effectively with them again.
“If delays in her supreme court appeal take any longer, then the freedom we have all hoped to gain for her will be extremely shallow and will quickly become a new period of isolation.
“I watched for seven years as my aunt’s life became a misery, she suffered 7 years of severe dementia and passed away on the 18th of September 2018.
“I know how cruel this period can be for family members and call on the courts and government of Pakistan, to ensure that Asia is given proper health care and a fair trial.”
Although it is normal practice to seek sponsorship for a run before you start, Wilson Chowdhry never had the opportunity to do so. If you would like to retrospectively support this effort with money raised to be given to the BPCA for the work they do helping Pakistani Christians, then please donate by clicking (here)
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