Juliet with children of Shama and Shahzad.
Juliet Chowdhry a trustee of the British Pakistani Christian Association, visited Pakistan to oversee the purchase of a plot of land to be developed
into a school for enslaved children. The school is to be located opposite the brick kilns at which the Christian couple Shama and Shahzad were brutally
beaten, dragged across rocky ground whilst tied to a vehicle and then burned alive by Muslims incensed by a false allegation of blasphemy.
The purchase of the land has gone through preliminary stages and a deposit has been paid. Now Punjab Land Registry prepare the documentation
for the completion of the sale, to be signed and paid in full on 10th June 2016. Already BPCA has set the boundary of the land and have started to
install the necessary boundary fence to demarcate our school property, a process that is the norm in Pakistan.
Fencing BPCA land
Whilst in Pakistan, Juliet met with her family for only the second time in over 5 years and shared a time of mourning for the family members she lost
in the recent Gulshan Park bomb attack. The experience was a very cathartic moment as Juliet has not returned back to Pakistan since the
Peshawar bomb attack of 2013, when she lost 13 members of her family. Juliet once visited Pakistan twice a year until Pakistani secret services
officers from the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI), visited her house three times in 2011. The visits were triggered after her husband Wilson
Chowdhry Chairman of the BPCA was violently beaten at the Pakistani High Commission to the UK, whilst applying for a visa. Reasons given for
Mr Chowdhry's beating and ban from Pakistan were that he was promoting an anti-Pakistani agenda. The ban still stands despite Mr Chowdhry's remonstrations
to the Pakistani High Commission and government explaining his campaign is one that promotes justice and reflects his love for the nation of his ancestors.
Read more about this attack
Juliet met many of the victims that the BPCA is caring for including the lovely children of Shama and Shahzad, Suleman (9 years), Sonia (6 years) and
Poonam (3 years). The children were really excited by the visit of someone from the UK and practiced their English with Juliet. They all competed
in reciting the English alphabet to her and a number of poems and stories in English, which is a remarkable advance on what they would have achieved
as enslaved children at a brick kiln. After their difficult endeavours they shared a pleasurable meal of burgers and chips (their favourite treat),
though Juliet just had a cold drink. The children are aware of the BPCA's school project and their family have been invited to the grand opening where
they will be involved in unveiling the wing named after Shama and Shahzad. Suleman, said:
"I am glad my mum and dad are being remembered, but I wish they were here. They always wanted us to go to a good school and learn and we are now. We are enjoying learning so much it is better then working. I hope the new school will provide good education for all the other Kasur children."
Suleman and the other children have discovered the awful story of the release on bail of the main suspect in the murder case of Shama and Shahzad. Mr Yousaf Gujjar was released was on the 16th of April, the same date Mehwish Bhatti signed BPCA's original acceptance of the price for the school land (click here).
Mr Gujjar and his son had locked Shama and Shahzad in a room demanding they pay off their bonded labour debt. He had learnt the couple desired to leave his brick kiln after Shama had been raped by Mr Gujjar's accountant. Mr Gujjar is also accused of fomenting hatred against the couple by conspiring with and encouraging local mosques to spew hatred based on an alleged blasphemy. Local Imams then used their mosque public address systems to galvanise a violent mob.
The Government took an ostensibly tougher stance on seeking justice against the perpetrators of the violent crime, by moving the legal procedure to Anti-terrorism courts. The Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif said " set a precedent so that no one would dare repeat such a barbaric act again,”
latest direction by the Ant-terrorism courts however flies in the face of such vaunted position. Although the case remains open, it is believed
that further bail appeals will be accepted and that the hundreds arrested will eventually be set free without any prosecutions. A practice that
is noticeably and detrimentally common in cases of violence against Christians in Pakistan. Suleman, said:
"This bad man has to be punished he killed my mum and dad, I am scared of he will hurt other people."
full time carer for the children has become indispensable for the family and now the children refer to her as 'mama,' a term it seems the grandfather
has decided is best for them and has enabled them to get over the brutal murder of their parents. Thanks to a kindly donor we have been able
to maintain this service to the family, which has helped develop disciplined and very bright children. A catholic church has been funding their
home and we completely refurbished and repainted the home last year, bringing some much needed comfort to the lives of these children. Read more about the tragic murder of Shama and Shahzad and the help provided to their family (click here)
Whilst in Pakistan Juliet also took out time to speak at a number of churches and meetings, where she described the
work of the BPCA and encouraged the Pakistani Christian community where possible. When she returns in June Juliet will be involved in some
outreach programmes and will meet with Qaisor Pervaiz the survivor of the Lahore bomb attack of 2015.
Wilson Chowdhry is still banned from Pakistan and was unable to attend his mother in laws funeral, his favourite cousins wedding or support victims during a very tumultuous period in Pakistan. He is asking for prayers that he will one day be able to visit a country he has such great love for.
We still require further funds to make our school project a reality and call for support from our donors. The school will be a free school for enslaved brick kiln children. We will not teach Islamic Studies but ethics and will also have a daily Christian assembly. The school will have the words Jesus Saves written across it and will be a beacon of hope for the much suffering minorities of Kasur. Moreover it will serve a dual purpose and will be only the second registered church building in Kasur/ This will ensure that generations of Christians are brought up with a truer understanding of their faith, and are academically equipped to change to their situation and that of others.
If you would like to donate towards our school project or the children of Shama and Shahzad, please use this donations link to obtain details. The link includes details such as; address for cheque payments, on-line secure Paypal and visa card payment portals and our bank details for standing orders (click here)
Juliet treating children to meal.
The children trying out their English with Juliet.
Sonia receives her burger.
Suleman, Poonam, Sonia, enjoying their meals.
The children enjoyed their day Aunty Juliet.
A wonderful meal was had by all.
Our full time carer with the children of Shama and Shahzad.
Workers begin the demarcation of the proposed school grounds.
A worker prepares cement for the installation of poles.
Barbed wire demarcates the border.
The edge of our land meets a local Christian community.
Workers illustrate an earnest desire to finish the work completely.
Work was finished late at night – what a beautiful view…
Juliet spoke at various meetings here she was garlanded witth flowers at St Anthony's Church
A small gathering at a prayer meeting heard about the work of the BPCA.
Juliet prayed for change in Pakistan.