Typical of the dozen or so Pakistani women who gather for two hours every day in single room that serves as their church’s meeting hall, A’idah extolled the rewards of enrollment in the church’s new outreach to women – a Sewing & Literacy Center. While she’s becoming familiar with tracing patterns onto fabric, carefully cutting them out, and stitching them together to make dresses, A’idah’s comment really refers to her new ability to read the Bible. She likens the Bible’s message to the patterns she’s now learning to use for dress-making.
The center’s classes empower Christian women – usually overlooked in Pakistani society – with marketable skills combined with personal discipleship, using the Bible as their textbook for improving literacy. Overall, the literacy rate across the country is well under 60%, but for the Christian minority in Pakistan, who are discriminated against in terms of education, the literacy rate plummets to about 10%. The literacy rate specifically among Christian women drops even further. Learning how to read opens the door for greater discipleship and spiritual maturity for the women enrolled at the Sewing & Literacy Center because of their ability to engage the biblical text personally. Additionally, learning how to sew empowers the women to develop at-home seamstress businesses, which are in demand locally. This serves two purposes. First, it allows these Christian women like A’idah to forego low-paying housekeeping jobs in Muslim homes where they are often beaten and raped since they are considered third-class citizens. (See related article at bottom of this page.) Second, with greater income, the family is able to support their church more robustly. As that happens, the church matures qualitatively.
Pastor Harris, one of FMI’s partners in Pakistan, notes two direct results of his church’s new Sewing & Literacy outreach. “I am seeing the lives of the women who enrolled in this course be transformed. I can see it already in just the space of the first two months [since we began]. There is also more interest in people being faithful in their attendance to church services.” In fact, while the hall packs out with about 85 people for Sunday services, scores more stand in the streets to listen through the sanctuary’s open doors. “Now we have hope!” exclaims Nafia, training with A’idah, as she begins to read the Bible for herself for the first time in her life.
FMI provided funds for five sewing machines and bolts of fabric for the center’s launch as well as the Bibles being given to the women. About 15% of the women in Pastor Harris’ congregation are enrolled in the center but nearly 100% of the women want to eventually take the classes. The center uses only manual or foot-powered machines because electricity is not widely available in the village – and even if it is, there are rolling blackouts daily across the country, and the women must train on the type of machines they will eventually use in their home business. Pastor Harris explained that due to the number of sewing machines available, they must limit the number of women enrolled for each six-month course to about 12 students who share time on the machines. Seeing the transformation that’s occurring through Pastor Harris’ outreach, other FMI-supported pastors in Pakistan are eager to begin similar outreaches for women in their own congregations. Your supplemental gift of $150 to FMI’s Tangible Resources account can provide one more sewing machine, bolts of fabric, and Bibles to help turn these pastors’ vision into reality and weave new hope into the lives of hundreds of women and families.
On May 6, 2018, an impoverished 17-year-old Christian Pakistani girl, serving in domestic work, was killed by her Muslim employers. They claimed she deserved to be beaten because her cleaning was not up to their standards. The victim, Kainat Masih, lived in the Punjab province where she had worked in the domestic labor sector since she was a child. (More than 12.5 million children in Pakistan are currently involved in child labor – and nearly half of those are under the age of ten!) On the day of Kainat’s death, her father visited her employer’s home. Upon his arrival, he saw Kainat’s arms and legs being held down by her employer, his wife, two other men, and a woman. She was being strangled by a rope tied around her neck and had already been raped by all three of the men; in fact, Kainat had been raped for years by her employer. Her father’s pleas for them to not kill his daughter went unheeded. Kainat’s murder is currently under police investigation. Even though the perpetrators are known, as of a month later, no arrests have been made, and none are expected to be made since Kainat’s employer, Asif Ismail, is the son of a local political party leader.