Religious Persecution In Pakistan

We Need To Talk About Religious Persecution In Pakistan

I cannot abide by the disgusting stigma that Pakistani society seems to have towards anyone who dares to follow their own religion.

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This past summer, I had the opportunity to visit my family's homeland, Pakistan, for a wedding alongside my family. We stayed in Karachi for three weeks, during which I observed a disturbing trend since my last visit four years ago—an almost silent voice from the more prominent minority religious communities, specifically the Ahmadi and Christian communities, displayed by a conspicuous absence of any churches or places of worship for these factions.

While all of my family members were reveling in the ideals of change and justice that newly-appointed Prime Minister Imran Khan would bring to this beleaguered nation (corrupted since its inception by incompetent bureaucracy and religious extremism), I wondered what had happened to the already-slighted institutions that these minorities held sanctuary in, and why so few were willing to speak of their near-complete lack of presence in the local community. When I posed these questions to family, they shrugged off this seemingly bizarre phenomenon with a forced indifference, leaving me to do my own digging to find out why minorities in Pakistan appeared to be ignored by both the government and the common people.

Pakistan has approximately 2.5 million Christians (totaling about 1.6 percent of the population), and approximately 2.2 percent of its population are Ahmadis, a people who follow the teachings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and are almost identical to regular followers of the Islamic faith, save for one key difference—their refusal to acknowledge the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as the final messenger of Allah (SWT.)

In addition, Pakistan has a sizable population of Hindus, Atheists, Sufis, and various other peoples of different faith, and yet does nothing to shield these communities from the persecution that they face simply for choosing to follow their own faith instead of the one followed by the majority. There is no shortage of horrific instances of persecution against these minorities, which include ethnic cleansing of Hindus and Christians, the murder of students over the ridiculous social enforcement of so-called "Blasphemy Laws" that eradicate any notion of freedom of speech (which is, by the way, guaranteed under Islamic law, proving that these blasphemy laws that prohibit speaking out against Islam are completely idiotic), and the burning of a local church in a Christian-majority neighborhood in Lahore, amongst many other acts of discrimination against non-Muslims.

Often times, minorities are not allowed to obtain housing, jobs, or even proper schooling, all due to their choice to believe in something other than mainstream Islam. Their patriotism and devotion to Pakistan have always been in question, in the same manner that Muslims in America are constantly scrutinized as being un-American.

I find it extremely ironic and disgusting that Pakistanis, whose country was founded on the basis of religious freedom and tolerance, would dare to treat religious minorities with such vitriol, in the same manner that their forefathers were treated in India for being Muslim under a Hindu regime. I feel angry that a so-called Muslim country has the audacity to proclaim itself as such whilst also treating members of its own community in such a disgusting manner.

The Quran specifically teaches Muslims to have love and respect for one another and for their neighbors, and yet Pakistan is home to some of the most discriminatory laws against religious minorities on the planet. The country itself owes much to the Ahmadiyya community, which has produced some of the finest military officers (LTG Qamar Bajwa), scientists (Mohammed Abdus Salam), and artists (Saira Wasim) to represent Pakistan.

During the 1947 liberation of Pakistan from India, it was an Ahmadi missionary (Abdul Rahim Dard) who convinced Muhammad Ali Jinnah (the founding father of Pakistan) to return to British India to continue to headline the Pakistan movement. This ill-treatment of non-Muslims in Pakistan, backed by fervently extremist mullahs who demonize these communities as enemies of Islam, is wholly anti-Islamic and altogether no different than the racism that Muslims face abroad in the United States and Europe.

I can't pretend that I understand all of the nuances of the power-politics in play that keep minorities from establishing themselves as strong communities representative of Pakistan as a country.

However, I cannot abide by the disgusting stigma that Pakistani society seems to have towards anyone who dares to follow their own religion. I can only hope that the new Prime Minister, Imran Khan, notices the plight of the minority communities and works to alleviate them from the injustices that they suffer from their own home.

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17 Empowering Bible Verses For Women

You go, girl.
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We all have those days where we let the negative thoughts that we're "not good enough," "not pretty enough" or "not smart enough" invade our minds. It's easy to lose hope in these situations and to feel like it would be easier to just give up. However, the Bible reminds us that these things that we tell ourselves are not true and it gives us the affirmations that we need. Let these verses give you the power and motivation that you're lacking.

1. Proverbs 31:25

"She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future."

2. Psalm 46:5

"God is within her, she will not fall."

3. Luke 1:45

"Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her."

4. Proverbs 31:17

"She is energetic and strong, a hard worker."

5. Psalm 28:7

"The Lord is my strength and my shield."

6. Proverbs 11:16

"A gracious woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth."

7. Joshua 1:9

"Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

8. Proverbs 31:30

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised."

9. 1 Corinthians 15:10

"By the grace of God, I am what I am."

10. Proverbs 31:26

"When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness."

11. Psalm 139:14

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

12. 1 Peter 3:3-4

"Don't be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God."

13. Colossians 2:10

"And in Christ you have been brought to fullness."

14. 2 Timothy 1:7

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline."

15. Jeremiah 29:11

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'"

16. Exodus 14:14

"The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm."

17. Song of Songs 4:7

"You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way."

Next time you're feeling discouraged or weak, come back to these verses and use them to give you the strength and power that you need to conquer your battles.

Cover Image Credit: Julia Waterbury

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My Heart Was Broken On Philippine Election Day

Don't ask me to move on just yet.

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I woke up to the unofficial, partial results of the midterm elections.

Quite predictably, the wife of Philippines' wealthiest topped the senatorial ladder. As my eyes slowly checked who completed the magic 12, tears started to appear out of nowhere.

Waves of emotions kicked in and swiftly bombarded me. I was left appalled, dejected, and miserably confused.

I felt defenseless.

My beloved nation has spoken and decided to resort to personality politics. The clodhopping charisma of action stars like Lapid and Revilla garnered more votes than the legal competence of Diokno and Hilbay. The strong machinery of the Cayetano and Angara political dynasties triumphed over the modest, but determined Colmenares and Macalintal. Not to mention, Bato and Go's mere proximity to the president placed them in the top five, quickly dismissing the daring spirit of Marawi City's Gutoc.

During the campaign period, citizens witnessed candidates who claimed to always care, but were front runners in promoting abuse of power and violence. Candidates who chose to dance their way through the stage instead of joining debates. Candidates who blatantly bought votes, rather than woo citizens with their credentials and platforms.

But why did they still win?

This might be the question of many.

This year's turnout is at its highest. Yes, voters were mobilized, but were they given enough framework to practice their suffrage strategically? The bulk of this year's votes came from class D, most popularly known as the masa. They encompassed 78 percent. Meanwhile, class E occupied 16 percent. Generally, these classes have a higher tendency to fall under the trap of gimmicks and entertainment, which the opposition clearly didn't provide. The remaining 6 percent were from classes ABC.

To be quite honest, I might have been too invested in this year's midterm elections; way more than ever before. But how can I not be when my nation's at war with itself? This time around, we actually had capable senatorial candidates who were worthy of the positions, but were still denied the chance. They didn't have enough financial backing and only volunteers and social media supporters kept their campaigns going.

My fellow men are continuously being blinded due to history's reinforcement. There is this deeply-rooted belief in the superiority that claimed dominance over others — creating an even wider disparity between the rich and the poor.

It is so easy and convenient to put the blame on the voters; to think that it was in their control. We seem to downplay that the crack is at the foundation. The existing systems that we trust, which supposedly build bridges, are in reality the ones burning bridges.

Amidst it all, even with self-preserved lapdogs dominating our government, I can't help but cling on to hope.

Hope comes in the form of the youthful Vico Sotto who ended the 27-year reign of the notorious Eusebio clan. In the form of Magdaleno Marcellones, Jr., a security guard who bravely went against the presidential daughter for the mayoral race in Davao City. In the form of everyone who voted and who will choose to vote again.

May these little beams of hope shed light into a better future, no matter how difficult.

Greater things await you, Philippines.

But you have to fight for it.

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