As promised we keep you updated on the progress of the children of Shama and Shahzad. Offspring of the Christian couple burnt alive whilst the mother was carrying a 4 month embryo, during an extrajudicial killing by a hateful mob of Muslims 4th November 2014 (click here). We take this opportunity to thank Pastor Qamar Robin, Pastor at Forman Christian Church (FCC) along with him was Saleem Iqbal from Isaac TV, who helped organise the meeting with family of the murdered couple.
The children have become pawns in a five way custody battle Which include the maternal grandfather, Paternal uncle, maternal uncle,the nonprofit Child Protection and Welfare Bureau, and the Legal Evangelical Association Development organization (click here).
On Friday 13th February 2015, we sent our Pakistan officer Mehwish Bhatti to the family, to find out how the children were doing and how we could use our benevolent fund to improve their quality of life.We share her account;
"On meeting the children I noticed how excited they were to be seeing visitors. I brought them gifts of stationary and eatables the type that I enjoyed when their age, that are relatively healthy. The children were all in one room in a rented house, within Lahore, that was being paid for by the local Full Gospel Assembly Church."
"The maternal grandfather Mukhtar Masih although in relatively good health, is in his late sixties. I am worried about how he can bring up such young children, especially as his wife has already passed away. Moreover, he is very close to his other daughter who he say's has right of custody of an eldest son details of whom are not revealed, through a personal agreement with Shama and Shahzad. She has converted to Islam and has designs to raise the child a Muslim despite reservations by all other members of both the paternal and maternal relatives." The eldest son is currently in the custody of a paternal uncle and thus far the sister of Shama has relinquished any rights to custody.
Mukhtar Masih has described in no uncertain terms that the only compensation received by him from the Government, consists of 15,000 rupees and 10 acres of land, in Clarkabad where his daughter and son in law were murdered. That equates to 5000 rupees for each child and the land is unusable due to the proximity to the incident where Christians, especially his family are now suffering extreme animosity and prejudice. 5000 rupees were also given to the uncle who cares for the eldest child. We are writing to the High Commissioner of Pakistan to advise on whether the full promised compensation will be provided to the family and when. It may well be delayed due to the impending custody battle.
"Suleman has begun going to school and the Mr Masih would also like to send the eldest daughter Sonia (4years) to school now. The cost of schooling for such a long period will be £90 per month for the two children including a pick and drop vehicle service. Children have to travel much further distances than UK children to get to school and the risk of kidnap, especially of girls is extremely high. The BPCA have agreed to cover the costs of continuing such care for 6 months. Anything longer then this will require further donations on long term commitments."
"He is struggling to teach or control the children at home and I feel there is a lack of intimacy with the children. He suggested the hiring of a permanent nanny the cost of which would be £250 per month. These costs are well above the means of the BPCA currently and again, we have to refer this back to our donors. If you feel you can help we will need long term commitments."
Mehwish spent the day with the children preparing a healthy cereal meal for them, drawing and writing and just sharing time with them. She shared bible stories with them and prayed with the children and the maternal grandfather. The children did not know many bible stories and Mehwish left some children's christian books. They all baked cakes together and the children loved the interaction, it seemed liked they craved it.
Suleman is aware of the death of his parents as he saw the full attack. 4 year old Sonia understands her parents are no longer with her, she misses them and remembers people shouting at them and hitting her parents. Sadly sonia saw her parents being roasted alive as she was also picked up to be burnt with them, however the mob released her after a consensus refused to burn a child. Poonam survived being thrown to the ground by the men who first grabbed the couple, after breaking into the room they were imprisoned in. It is hard to tell what she remembers, however, it is believed her recollection of events will be limited due to her young years and distance from the final moments of her parents, as she was rapidly taken to safety by relatives, before the burning of her parents.
Mukhtar Masih informs us he will be meeting with the Deputy Commissioner of the local police authority next week. He advises us that all 75 men arrested in the aftermath of the killing are still incarcerated, despite monthly attempts at obtaining bail. He feels confident that justice will be done, considering the genuine attempts by police officers to see through justice and court resilience to bail applications.
Mehwish had to rush of later in the evening to organise an interview between Ashiq Masih the husband of Asia Bibi and the Church Times Newspaper in the UK. She described the pain of leaving the children behind, she said;
"The children were clinging to me they were obviously bereft of a mother figure and it was a very emotional departure, as they were crying for me to stay. I hope something is done to resolve this gap in their emotional and spiritual needs."
The BPCA has no opinion on who the children would be best to remain with. We only seek to find solutions to improve their quality of life whoever their eventual custodians are. We feel we would serve the children best by providing the ongoing costs towards schooling and the live in nanny, however, this can only be done through a few more commitments from long term benefactors, We are retaining a fund that can be drawn on during the life of these children till adulthood. It is not huge but then again our levels of donations are limited, any which way we will remain involved the development of the children of Pakistan's most famous Christian martyrs. If you would like to be a part of that process then please help us to help these three children by donating to our permanent benevolent fund.
The BPCA continues with a permanent benevolent fund for the children of Shahzad and Shama. If you would like to contribute to our appeal our bank details are as follows:
Sort Code: 20-67-90 Account number: 63468976 Bank: Barclays
Ref: Love for Shahzad and Shama (regular standing orders must use this reference).
Alternatively if you would like to send an immediate donation please use the pay-pal facility on the top right hand corner of our blog, or simply send a cheque made payable to the BPCA to our address; 57 Green Lane, Ilford, Essex, IG1 1XG.
With your support we hope to change the lives of millions of Christians in Pakistan.