The Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF)

Over the years the social welfare sector in Pakistan has seen a significant increase in the formation of non-profit organizations. As a consequence, the concept of development has been pushed beyond its erstwhile narrow perception of economic progress to center-stage human progress and well-being.

Realizing the significance of well-being bearing directly on human progress, The Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF) was established to merge the two key elements of human progress and well-being to implement the development framework. Built on these two concepts, The Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF) encapsulates a model vision which hinges on “changing lives.”

The Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation’s (CICF) ethos to “change lives” is a legacy of visionaries whose faith centered on humanity.

The Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF) is an initiative to carry forward the legacies of two exceptionally great human beings Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry and his wife Mrs Iris Chaudhry; The CICF was established by their daughter Michelle Chaudhry to fulfill their commitment of “Changing lives”.

The CICF is therefore an expression of Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry’s vision of equality, empowerment of the marginalized, and it carries on his fight against ‘religious apartheid’; it also carries forward Mrs. Iris Chaudhry’s passion for reaching out to the underprivileged and downtrodden in society.

 

Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry (SJ, S Bt)

Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry was a man who devoted his life to not only protecting the geographical but also the ideological boundaries of Pakistan.

He was a highly decorated war veteran, a legend of the Pakistan Air Force, an acclaimed international human rights activist, a national hero, and an inspiration for thousands in Pakistan.

He was bestowed with numerous honors from gallantry awards to equally high peace time citations for his bravery, courage and valuable contributions towards the betterment of Pakistan.

Cecil Chaudhry is one of the few people in Pakistan to be awarded with both, the country’s highest Gallantry awards and its highest civil awards.  

Whether it was achieving the highest level of professionalism in the Pakistan Air Force, or grooming the leaders of tomorrow by providing quality education to Pakistani Children or then standing up to protect the civil rights and dignity of simple ordinary people by promoting interfaith harmony, which has today become one of the core issues confronting the Pakistani society Cecil Chaudhry gave it his all and excelled.

Mrs. Iris Chaudhry

Mrs. Iris Chaudhry did not only compliment her husband’s life but stood by him in the most adverse of circumstances. She was undoubtedly an extremely loving wife, mother and grandmother but above all she was a patriotic citizen of Pakistan.

She cared for the marginalized and downtrodden with great passion; she was a firm believer in the power of education and in her own capacity was able to help educate numerous underprivileged Christian children.

Iris Chaudhry cared passionately for Christian families who faced religious persecution, brutality, victims of blasphemy laws, rape and forced conversion and did everything in her power to help provide them with moral and financial help.

The Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF) is a registered, independent, non- Government, non-profit organization; dedicated to the eradication of injustice in society by advocating on behalf of the underprivileged, under represented and marginalized groups within Pakistan.

The CICF works for freedom of religion for all and is an outspoken voice against religious intolerance, discrimination, injustice and violation of human rights across Pakistan.

 

Why Religious Minorities

The non-Muslims in Pakistan are an extremely downtrodden and marginalized community, a community that has and continues to face atrocities and brutality at every level, their faith being their only fault. They face an ever increasing religious intolerance against them.

Today Pakistan stands as one of the most glaring examples of religious intolerance in the world. The country is the grip of terrorism, sectarian violence, religious intolerance and discrimination.

This is not the Pakistan that the founders of this country envisioned, neither is this the Pakistan for which our ancestors laid down their lives.

The Christian community and other religious minorities contributed decisively towards the creation of Pakistan hence playing an historic role. Primarily, due to the assurances given to them by the founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, that all citizens would enjoy equal rights and complete religious freedom in the newly created State of Pakistan.

This was expressed by him at a press conference on 14th July, 1947, in New Delhi when he stated: “… minorities to whichever community they may belong, will be safeguarded. Their religion, faith or belief will be secure. There will be no interference of any kind with their freedom of worship. They will have their protection with regard to their religion, faith, their life, their culture. They will be, in all respects, citizens of Pakistan without any distinction of caste or creed. They will have their rights and privileges and no doubt, along with it goes the obligation of citizenship…”

Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan was again clearly stated by him in his historic, now controversial, address to the Legislative Assembly on 11th August 1947: “… You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State…” This session was presided over by a non-Muslim member.

Pakistan was created to respect human dignity, religious freedom, equality of minorities’ rights, sovereignty of parliament and an independent judiciary. Mr Jinnah did not envision Pakistan to become a theocratic state. He envisioned a country where all citizens would be equal despite difference in religion, sex, color and creed. He wanted a country where religious minorities had complete religious freedom. Hence Mohammad Ali Jinnah envisioned a Pakistan where religious equality, justice and the rule of law would prevail.

Mr Jinnah’s dream of Pakistan was short-lived and his vision disintegrated with his death, the rights of the religious minorities were neglected, discriminatory laws were implemented by the succeeding governments and military regimes. Non-Muslims have suffered tremendously and are facing discrimination and brutality under the rigidity of these tyrannical laws.

Among these discriminatory laws, the Blasphemy Laws are the most rigid. The Blasphemy Laws are part of a system which fosters injustice, sectarian violence, and violence amongst religions.

Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws were promulgated in 1985, in 1990 the punishment under this law, for offending the Holy Quran and insulting Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), was life imprisonment and in 1992 the then parliament imposed the death penalty.

The law which carries the death penalty only requires the testimony of one Muslim man to bring charges against another person for blasphemy; from the time of its conception it has been used for personal animosity and revenge the victims are the vulnerable non-Muslims, Christians in particular.

It has been easily and widely misused and Christians get victimized at the hands of Islamic extremists. It is a law that brings no benefit to the citizens of Pakistan…….It only empowers the extremists against the vulnerable.

Innocent Christians are languishing in jails across Pakistan falsely charged for blasphemy; some on death row, some serving life imprisonment and many who are awaiting trial. Not a single case under this law has been proved. The higher courts of Pakistan acquit those accused of blasphemy, after they are sentenced by the lower courts. When the alleged persons were acquitted by the higher courts it is found that the cases were registered primarily on the bases of personal animosity.

Furthermore, once acquitted, they continue to live in life threatening conditions. Their families uprooted, their lives jeopardized, the chances of leading any kind of a safe and normal life are diminished forever – their faith being their only fault. 

Numerous blasphemy-accused including Christians have been murdered during their trials.

The authorities seem to have been taken hostage by the militant extremists. Pakistani judges are under severe pressure from mobs waiting outside their courtrooms, ready to spark violence. Lawyers fear taking up the defense of blasphemy accused.

Rights organizations have been demanding repeal or then amendments of these laws in order to prevent their misuse, and continue to demand that unless and until these laws are repealed or amended, the authorities must ensure that those who are accused of blasphemy and those who defend them are given proper protection and the norms of justice are strictly followed. But all proves futile, as any voice raised for the repeal or amendment of Blasphemy Laws, has been ruthlessly silenced.

These laws continue to play havoc with the lives of innocent non-Muslims, there have been numerous incidents where Christian settlements have been attacked, and homes looted and razed to the ground, on baseless accusations of blasphemy, sending a wave of terror within the non-Muslim communities across Pakistan.

False accusations of blasphemy have led to targeted mob violence; non-Muslims continue to be targeted by zealots who are encouraged by fire-breathing mosque imams, whose sermons are dead set against non-Muslims, thus enhancing intolerance amongst the masses.

Unfortunately in Pakistan when it comes to blasphemy accusations anyone is free to act as a prosecutor, judge and executor. Impunity around violence against religious minorities in Pakistan continues.

Horrific incidents caused by false accusations of blasphemy goes back to 1997; in the recent pass a Christian couple Shehzad and Shama who were burnt to death in a furnace of a brick over an alleged blasphemy accusation in November 2014. Prior to that in March 2013 a mob of over 3000 miscreants vandalized a Christian neighborhood over an alleged blasphemy accusation; a total of 198 Christian homes were ransacked and set ablaze after a chemical attack was carried out. The enormity of damage was beyond comprehension; absolute devastation, everything was completely destroyed, burnt down to ashes. No amount of words can describe the enormity of destruction of not only houses but of lives, dreams and trust.

Over 200 families were rendered shattered and homeless and no one was held accountable.

 

The question is …..How many more innocent people need to face the brutality of prison, how many more families need to be traumatized, how many more homes need to be shattered, how many more innocent lives need to lost, how many more children need to be orphaned, before the Government of Pakistan can turn its attention towards these discriminatory laws that are brutally affecting the lives of non – Muslim Pakistanis.

It cannot be emphasized enough that in order to create a peaceful co-existence, tolerance and interfaith harmony within religious communities in Pakistan, Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws must be appropriately amended. The misuse has to be stopped.

Innocent people will continue to face the brutality of prison, families will continue to be traumatized, and homes will be shattered, innocent lives will be lost and children orphaned, until discriminatory laws such as the blasphemy laws are not repealed or amended in order to stop its misuse.

Apart from mob violence, non-Muslims also face hostility at the hands of the ongoing terrorism that confronts the Pakistani society.

The terrorist attacks on the All Saints Church Peshawar in September 2013 left the Christians of Pakistan shocked and shattered. It was the deadliest attack that the Christian community had ever experienced in the history of Pakistan, which left 128 people dead and over hundreds injured.

Christians were again targeted in 2015 when two churches were attacked simultaneously by suicide bombers on a Sunday morning during a prayer service in the Christian populated area of Youhanabad Lahore. The attacks left thirty people dead and hundreds injured along with a shattered and devastated community.

Christians were once again attacked by terrorists on Easter Sunday in 2016, when a very popular children’s amusement park was attacked by suicide bombers which left over eighty people dead and hundreds injured.

The list of attacks and violence against Christians just goes on.       

Non-Muslims in Pakistan, Christians in particular live with a sense of continuous fear, they do not only face the discriminatory laws, acts of terrorism and social hostility that cause constant fear but they also have to bear the brunt of collective Muslim anger over anti-Islam trends in the West. Whenever Muslims are persecuted or mistreated anywhere in the world, the Christians in Pakistan face antagonism at the hands of the Islamic extremists, within the country. Be it the war in Afghanistan, the Gulf war, or the publication of the blasphemous caricatures in Europe, the Christians in Pakistan face the brunt.

Churches are burnt down to ashes, Christian villages and towns are raided, homes are burnt, the residents are victimized and tortured, Bible and sacred relics are desecrated, hence resulting in a life of constant fear and anxiety.

As mentioned earlier previous governments and military regimes have completely neglected the rights of religious minorities which has resulted in deep rooted religious intolerance within our society.

The religious minorities face discrimination at all levels; in the work place their careers are put at risk, hence creating within them a sense of deprivation and inferiority.

Thus resulting in psychological problems such as under confidence and depression, they often encounter lack of opportunity as far as jobs are concerned and are also discriminated against in educational institutions.

Despite the dangers, adversities and hardships our struggle continues. We face extremely dangerous times. We need global support from all those who respect human rights, as their strong voice does have an impact on the forces who are responsible for this situation. We need to make our society tolerant and civilized.

Through The Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF) we aim to help eliminate this sense of deprivation and prejudice by equipping the underprivileged religious minorities with the confidence and ability to enter into mainstream. The Foundation focuses through its various projects on the uplift, welfare and empowerment of religious minorities in Pakistan, by providing them guidance, assistance and the awareness that is required for them to live a life of dignity and self-respect.

We face the future with optimism, religious discrimination and racism is not unconquerable. We will continue to strive for the welfare and empowerment of the underprivileged and downtrodden in society, hence standing by our commitment of “Changing Lives”.