Left Justified: Promoting friendships and good will in Pakistan

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-117329722830877.jpg’, ‘Photo provided.’, ‘Janet Young at the Christian Study Center (CSC) in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Young will speak publicly about the “Quest for Peace: Interfaith Dialogue,” at 7:30 p.m., Monday, March 12, at a free and open to the public program hosted at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4848 Turner St.‘);

I enjoy a good trip, especially a socially significant one. A travelogue is even better: you can sit and enjoy the view while someone else deals with border crossings hassles and airline seats.

Janet Young, regional director of Church World Service (the CROP Hunger Walk people), went on a trip to Pakistan. I would have gone in a second, if I’d any money left from my last excursion (to Iran). Western visitors to Middle Eastern countries are needed to promote friendship.

So Janet and six CWS staff people traveled to Pakistan to check out earthquake recovery efforts (you may remember the enormous earthquake in October 2005—CWS was, and still is, very active in rebuilding lives and communities).

Young will speak about her experiences this Monday, March 12, 7:30 p.m., at a free and open to the public program hosted at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4848 Turner St. You are welcome!

Of course, Pakistan is in the news these days as hiding bin Laden, and allowing al Qaida agents into neighboring Afghanistan. Janet will give her interpretation of some of the issues, and convey the good will engendered by Americans giving aid to stranded Pakistanis.

Janet Young relates the words of 76 year old Lalparam Jan, in the village of Dharian in the Battagram District. A survivor of the earthquake in Pakistan, she says, “We have nothing. We live from hand to mouth.” And Janet says, “These words haunt me as I return from my journey (Nov. 24-Dec. 9, 2006). We visited women like Lalparam, still living in ragged tents more than a year after the earthquake swept away their homes and even, in many cases, their land.

Seven Americans visited the area hit by the 2005 earthquake, as well as several developmental projects created to assist Pakistani families in rebuilding homes and lives. So I welcome you to hear this story. You know, as we go into this season of Lent, I try to consider doing something good for people in need, instead of just giving up bad things for me. I help CWS with refugee relief.

Founded in 1946, Church World Service is the relief, development and refugee assistance ministry of 35 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican denominations in the United States. Working in partnership with indigenous organizations in some 80 countries, CWS works worldwide to meet human needs and foster self-reliance for all whose way is hard. They have a great record of putting the most money directly into their programs.

In October 2005, Church World Service immediately provided emergency assistance to earthquake survivors—tents, blankets, food, medical care, water and sanitation, and they took responsibility for one of the tent villages.

As Pakistan begins to help uprooted survivors return to their villages, CWS is helping teach in a new construction training center in Mansehra. At the center, young men—who have been living in tent villages following the devastating quake—are learning masonry, electrical work, plumbing, carpentry and welding.

Over the last four months, a CWS psychosocial team has worked to restore the confidence of survivors. CWS Pakistan says, with encouragement, women who were traumatized and stigmatized in the initial days after the quake have now become more self-reliant and are ready to share personal stories and concerns more openly.

CWS’s psychosocial team also has been assisting quake-displaced women with income-generation projects, including a February handicraft exhibition in the Shohal Najaf tent village at which women exhibited and sold embroidery items, hand-made clothing and decorative pieces. We hope to have some items for display at JustGoods, the fair trade store (201 Seventh St., open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

So do good as well as avoid evil in preparing for Easter.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

From the March 7-13, 2007, issue

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