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This Press Release may be read online at: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-17-09-2009-00.htm

Press Release: 16th Sep 2009,          2nd Asu (Samvat 541 Nanakshahi )

Press Release

UNITED SIKHS provides Aid to Christians of Gojra and Koryan

Sep 11th, 2009, Peshawar Pakistan: Humanitarian services are shifting focus from hosting communities to areas of return to better meet the needs of the increasing number of returning displaced persons. The situation in Buner and Swat districts remains tense since the last blast that killed 16 cadets.

Provincial Minister Iftikhar Hussain said,"70 volunteers for a new community police force were holding their daily drills when a suicide bomber entered the training ground and detonated his explosives". He described condition of some of those wounded in the attack as critical. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has condemned the attack and has reiterated Pakistan's resolve to fight militancy.

Amardeep Singh from UK, Humanitarian Coordinator in Peshawar, said,"The Emergency Response Unit (ERU) has been dissolved and the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) has taken over the coordination of relief efforts in the NWFP region".

The current situation overview shows an extreme shortage of food. The government of North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) has requested World Food Program and other NGOs in the food cluster to cover the needs of the non-internally displaced people.

UNITED SIKHS provided essential commodities to families who were affected by the communal conflict in the village of Gojra, Faisalabad. This event marked another stage of providing for the families affected by the rioting that took place in Gojra, a village just outside of Koryan.

One week worth of nutritional food items including rice, flour, ghee (butter), sugar, spices, pulses, milk pack, tea leaves, soaps, etc to 105 Christian families affected. There is a pending need for non-food items to the affected Christain families and Muslim families in Gojra.

Provisions supplied to 105 families

Families lining up for provisions

Father Sahib, receiving the provisions with prayers

Herdyal Singh addressing the families

UNITED SIKHS volunteers giving provisions

UNITED SIKHS volunteers giving provisions

Christians are a religious minority in Pakistan. The initial alleged incident was instigated during a Christian wedding in Korian village near Gojra. Near this village there is a Christian colony with a few Muslim families living near them. A rumour was spread in the colony during the wedding programme that the Christian community burned pages of the Holy Quran; young Muslim people of that village became enraged and started protesting aggressively. The police eventually arrived and arrested the owner of the house where the Christians were celebrating the wedding ceremony. After the initial investigation the police released the owner. The Muslim population of that area became agitated more and protested against this.

On 1st August 2009 the religious Muslim parties started a procession and rallies against this incident. There was also a Muslim religious conference under Kaladam Safa Sahaba, a Taliban associated group, who stirred the emotions of the locals to becoming violent. They started throwing stones and shooting at the Christian colony. The Christians tried to defend themselves by throwing stones back and shooting back. During this incident 6 Christian and 13 Muslim people were seriously injured.

Some time later a larger group of Muslims arrived and fired on the Christians colony looting and burning more than 80 houses. During this, the Muslim mob cornered a Christian family of 7 made up of 2 children 3 women and 2 men. The mob burned them alive and then shot them dead, concurrently 2 more injured Christians died during the incident, bringing the total body count to 9. The government sent representatives to quell the situation but they failed. The police were then sent in large numbers with commandos to control the situation.

The total seriously affected are 105 Christian families and about 20 families of Muslims are living near with them in the same colony.

Navjit Singh, a UNITED SIKHS volunteer from UK, who is part of the humanitarian team in Pakistan, said,"What we realised was that there were victims on both sides of the conflict. Boths sides suffered, all from unfounded rumours. Due to immense tension still felt in the community, only the Christian family came to receive the provisions. We feel there is a dire need of counselling and conflict resolution coaching between the groups"

The Sikhs offered prayers and condolences to the families remembering the departed and offered their services for further assistance. UNITED SIKHS initiated a provision supply run where one week worth of nutritional food items including rice, flour ghee, sugar, spices, pulses, milk pack, tea leaves, soaps were supplied to all families affected by the unfortunate incident.

Names of the departed Christian family members:

Hameed Mashi - Grand Father

Akhlas Mashi - Son of Hameed Mashi

Asfa Bibi - Sister in law of Akhlas Mashi
Perveen Victor - Mother of Asia Bibi

Asia Bibi - Daughter of Perveen Victor

Umia Bibi- Daughter of Asfa Bibi

Musa - Son of Asfa Bibi

And the names of the two Christians who died later were: Master Riaz and Sarif Mashi.

Aid from the Provincial and Federal government:
The provincial government has provided cash aid of 5 lakh Pakistani rupees ($6172) for each of the 7 family members. The Federal government has also provided cash aid of 5 lakh Pakistani rupees ($6172) per family to the 9 Christian fatalities.

Since access continues to be difficult, the security status of the affected and return areas remains unclear. According to IDPs coming from the return areas and the assessments carried out, it is still not safe for women to go back to their jobs. Few working women have resumed their activities in the affected areas. There are still no female medical personnel at Saidu Sharif hospital in Swat District, and no female teachers or health workers are working in rural areas. In addition, vulnerable female-headed households are still facing problems accessing food and non-food items (NFIs) in return areas where their mobility and safety are compromised due to cultural constraints.

UNITED SIKHS is currently looking for volunteers, especially in the field of medicine, case managers, logistic controllers, camp security experts.

For a previous press release on UNITED SIKHS Pakistan IDP efforts, please visit: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-03-08-2009-00.htm.

Issued by:
Amardeep Singh
Phone: 888-243-1690


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