An award ceremony was held in the WAKE CC Vocational Centre in Joy Sha, Lahore on 18 December 2014. Diplomas were given to 32 women (28 Christian and 4 Muslims). The program started with interfaith prayers honouring those of Christian and Muslim faith. Fr. James Channan, Regional Coordinator for URI Pakistan, was the chief guest of this ceremony. Pastor Yousaf Nawab, the facilitator of this training, opened with a prayer for peace in Pakistan and all over the world. Teacher Hina Yaqoob told the ordinance that this training to women of Joy Sha has been proved to help women stand on their own feet.
Many of the women in other rich people’s houses where most of the time they are mistreated physically, physiological and financially. Sometimes, there are threats to their faith; at times they are accused of theft and of desecrating Islam. But after this training, most of the women and girls already have started earning their own money. Some of the women related that they could now send their children to school. One of the participants, Mrs. Neelam Yousaf, told the ordinance that she is already earning 7 to 8 thousand rupees per month due to this training. The women were extremely thankful to Sr. Sabina for providing them this vocational training.
In her speech, Women Wing Coordinator Sr. Sabina told the audience that these activities are possible because of the interest of URI in women’s empowerment and interfaith harmony. She said that we are very thankful to Executive Director Victor Kazanjian and Global Programs Director Sally Mahe for their keen interest for the cause of interreligious dialogue and respect for human dignity…especially for women’s empowerment through education and formation. This is the motto of Sr Sabina’s Cooperation Circle WAKE (Women And Kids’ Education) as well.
The women of the vocational centre had given a display of their own work (i.e. dresses, embroidery work and sample books). The women then presented a tableau reflecting the change in their lives this training has brought. Outstanding women were given sewing machines as an appreciation of their work. Fr. James Channan praised the work of women and dedication of Sr. Sabina Rifat in this very challenging place and situation. He found it very encouraging that due to this training, 32 families have been uplifted and interfaith harmony was boosted. He wished that these trainings may be continued in the future. He said “when we train one woman, we train one family and through these training we can bring a solid change in the society.” He also thanked URI for this great help and effort. Pastor Arif and Pastor Arshad also thanked URI for this interfaith gathering. Muslim women in attendance expressed their views and affirmed their cooperation to all URI Women Wing activities. A delicious meal was served to all the participants at the end of diploma ceremony. This celebration was held in a Protestant Church, run by Pastor Yousaf Nawab.
URI is well known for its interest in interfaith harmony and specially its keen interest in the empowerment of women and their equality as human beings. For that purpose, the Women Wing of URI Pakistan was established in March 2008, with Sr Sabina Rifat as the Coordinator. She is dedicated to uplifting women and children: working for their education, formation and vocational skills through peace activities, interfaith harmony and education. The name of her organization is WAKE (Women And Kids’ Education). It is also a URI Cooperation Circle.
“If we trained women in professional skills, it will be possible for them to earn their bread with dignity and to give better formation to their children and families thus bringing a positive change in an intolerant society,” Sr Sabina said. “To give basic education to children means to give a chance to them to live with liberty and discernment and bring a change in economy.”
“This will bring a decrease in crime rate and an increase in better relationship and acceptance of others without any prejudice. It will gradually bring a positive change in society and a better future for minorities in Pakistan. However, my aim is always to work with Christian, Muslims and any other human beings. It will also be a chance for us to work on interfaith harmony as for now the conflict among people of different religions and sectarianism is mounting high especially in undeveloped areas. WAKE CC’s purpose is to bring peace and harmony among Christians and Muslim people and give a chance to them to work together and accept each other as equal human beings through workshops, seminars and vocational trainings. Starting from slum areas in cities, I would love to expend this work in rural acres as well as at brick kilns where people are working as slaves for generations.”
“URI’s Women’s Initiative has been a help in fulfilling these activities. I am especially thankful to Victor Kazanjian and Sally Mahe for their great support. Fr. James Channan, many other priests, other URI Coordinators have seen my work in vocational centres in Lahore. They were with me at the occasion of opening the vocational centre in a poor and drug-addicted area called Joy Sha in Lahore. Some have visited our primary school in Warispura Faisalabad, located on the roof of our small house; it exists mostly for the orphans and children of drug-addicted fathers. WAKE CC is struggling to bring awareness, education and interfaith harmony and peace among Christian and Muslims through these activities.”