A Caged Bird

Standard

chirya

Her weekdays begin by arriving into the office in business casual. She assists clients until lunch, enjoys her break at a local deli, then back to work till close. Afternoons are spent watching Netflix with her husband. Saturday, she favors shopping in Oklahoma City’s best malls. Sunday, of course, she will be found attending church. The life of a typical American woman. However, Chirya is not an American woman. Chirya is a Pakistani Christian, a permanent resident living in Oklahoma.

Pakistani. Christian. Two words that appear to be antonyms of each other. However, for a minority in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan these two words come together.

*Pakistan has a population of over 150-million.

*Islam is the state religion of Pakistan.

*Muslims comprise over 96 percent of the population.

*Christians amount to only 1.6 percent of the population.

(Source: Library of Congress)

Now living in the US for a little over two years, Chirya has spent most of her life living in both Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. She summarizes her time in the Middle East with one word, “fragile”. Chirya, a third generation Christian, lived in fear and suffered persecution by the Muslim majority and a society that devalued women.

Chirya was born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan. Compared to the freedoms she experiences in America, life for a girl in Pakistan is difficult. “It is a conservative culture, living in a Muslim country…There are somethings that Christians and Muslims both believe like there’s not a lot of freedom for girls…Some people just think that as soon as they turn 16 or 18 they should arrange their marriages.”

Despite being from a Christian household, Chirya still lived in a society where marriages are often arranged. Pakistan, like the rest of the Greater Middle East, is a honor and shame society. Girls are expected to submit themselves to their family’s decisions. Often, parents will arrange to marry their daughters young to preserve their honor. Rumors of their girls seeing boys or displaying independence will be seen as shameful. Among the most conservative beliefs, honor can only be restored by the execution of the daughter.

PREGNANT PAKISTANI WOMAN STONED BY FAMILY

Fighting back tears, Chirya recounts how her own father attempted to arrange her marriage. “I was in grade 10 and he thought that it will be too disgraceful for him if I get to know a guy, if I have a boyfriend or fall in love. He was afraid of all these things because of how his reputation would be affected.”

Ultimately, Chirya was given the choice to marry freely but she still suffered from gender inequality. “Growing up in that conservative culture, you always feel like you are not treated equal to men. Men have all kinds of freedom and girls are always restricted…There is always a kind of line you cannot cross.”

Chirya grew up dominated by a male-centered culture. However, nothing caused more fear than living under persecution from the Muslim majority. Her home country of Pakistan is ranked 8th for persecution against Christians (Source: Open Doors). Pakistan’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion but many Pakistani Christians feel this is an empty promise (Source: Library of Congress). “Its true that the Pakistani government gives freedom to Christians to build churches and practice their religion but there has always been some kind of clash and persecution.”

The persecution of Christians in Pakistan and throughout the Middle East takes many forms. To Chirya, all Muslim countries are the same. Personal and professional discrimination of Christians is commonplace. Chirya cites examples of Muslims excluding her from their social circles during her college years in Pakistan. After college, she moved to the United Arab Emirates, working as an English instructor. One of the few Christian employees, she found herself passed up for promotion by her juniors, despite her status as senior faculty. “Why was I not considered? ‘Because I’m Christian?’ That’s the first question that comes in your mind. I felt hurt. I felt I was not recognized, my abilities and my talent.”

There is more to fear than discrimination. On average, 180 Christians worldwide are killed every month for their beliefs (Source: Open Doors). This number continues to grow as turmoil in the Middle East leads to violence against minority groups. Islamists have taken advantage of the Arab Spring, Syrian civil war and conquest of ISIS. Muslim extremists are slaughtering Christians with little opposition as ISIS’s forces and ideology spread across the Middle East. However, some killings are government sanctioned. Pakistan, among several Muslim nations, have harsh blasphemy laws. An accusation of blasphemy against Islamic beliefs can lead to the death penalty, regardless of lack of evidence.

IRAQI CHRISTIANS PERSECUTED BY ISIS

CHRISTIAN WOMAN SENTENCED TO DEATH IN BLASPHEMY CASE

Muslim anti-Christian mob burns homes in Lahore, Pakistan. From Reuters.

Muslim anti-Christian mob burns homes in Lahore, Pakistan. From Reuters.

Chirya and her family have suffered loss from Muslim extremists. “My Uncle’s place, where he lived, they burnt the whole community…Our relatives in Peshawar were going to church and just a bomb explosion happened. We lost four of them.”

HOMES BURNT IN ANTI-CHRISTIAN RIOTS

SUICIDE BOMBERS KILL 81 IN CHURCH BLAST

Chirya may live in America but feels no peace. While she is safer, her family continues to live in nations where persecution of Christians is rampant. Her voice is one of a countless multitude who must endure religious persecution and gender inequality. All she asks of her fellow Pakistanis is to, “Live and let others live.”

Sources:

Federal Research Division (2005). Library of Congress Country Profile of Pakistan. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/profiles/Pakistan.pdf

Open Doors USA (2014). World Watch List. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from http://www.worldwatchlist.us/world-watch-list-countries/

Open Doors USA (2013). 2014 Quick Facts. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from https://www.opendoorsusa.org/about-us/quick-faqs

 

The Maddening State of News Media

Standard

“Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly Meaningless! Everything is Meaningless!” So begins the book of Ecclesiastes and my assesment of the current state of the news media. With over a decade in journalism and mass communication, I find that genuine journalism is slowly being strangled by the very organizations dedicated to it. I’m not alone. A recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll indicates only 36% of Americans believe the media is accurate. In 1999, 125 senior journalists were polled. 70% of the respondents felt more negatively about most news organizations (Daily Source). What could lead to such ill-favor? “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” 1 Timothy 6:10. News has always been plagued with walking the line between being a community service and making profit. After all, journalists have to eat. However, recent trends have tipped the scale for profit to drive the news.

Innovation and recent technology have made news more accessible than ever. However, this has led to a insane battle amongst news organizations to maintain ratings and revenue. The growth of 24-hour news networks turned a rat-race into something even worse. Air time was given to news pundits. Sensationalism and entertainment put in a suit and called a journalist. Bill O Reilly, Nancy Grace, Rush Limbaugh and many others drew in ratings and money. This has now become the state of 24-hour news networks. For example, MSNBC’s primetime schedule is entirely comprised of pundits (MSNBC). Where’s the news?

Newspapers aren’t above criticism either. The higher profit and effeciency of consolidation is why nearly 80% of all newspapers are owned by mult-newspaper chains. Does the public notice? Why, yes! A study by the American Society of Newspaper Editors revealed that 59% of Americans saw newspapers caring more about profit than public good (Daily Source).

The local news fairs no better. The poor local news station must not only battle rivals but also must contend with the audience shift towards online media. This has created an environment where short deadlines and late-breaking news trump logic and integrity. Its that very environment that incidents like the one at KTVU-TV occur. In 2013, an Asiana flight crashed in San Francisco, killing 3. The National Transportation Safety Board released the names of the four pilots on the flight. KTVU-TV, desparate to be first, bypassed any critical review and went on air. The names? Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Li Fuk, and Bang Ding Ow (SF Gate). Better yet, justwatch it. While this may be an extreme example, journalism suffers when ratings and money drive it. My time in newsrooms saw daily lapses in thinking and integrity by both my own station and others. Too many times have I seen news directors push crews to get on-air with no confirmed info. I have been rushed to take the news vehicles out or go in the chopper to cover unconfirmed news, only to be returned later after discovering it to be a false alarm. The pressure to be live and late-breaking is felt by journalists everywhere. A study by the American Society of Newspaper Editors found that 34% of the surveyed journalists said the “rush to deadline,” was a major factor in mistakes. The remainder cited company issues with carelessness, inexperience, being overworked, and understaffed as primary reasons (Daily Source).

Confidence in the media has been shaken. In a Gallup poll, TV and print journalism have both dropped in public confidence by more than 10% in the past 10 years (Gallup). The studies show it. The public and many journalists know that the state of news media is profit-driven and sloppy. So why don’t more journalists make a stand against the system? Sadly, the answer is once again money. In the age of consolidation, either drink the company kool-aid or lose your job. Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.

What I truly believe will bring about real change is the consumer’s response. In this fast-food diet world, consumers just simply don’t seem to care they are being malnourished with poor news. We know its bad for us. We can state it during a poll or survey. However, we continue to be consumers of the journalistic equivalent of a Big Mac. We simply don’t care. More people have viewed Gangam Style than the first US black president’s inauguration. That is the state of journalism. Its meaningless until consumers demand better. Its meaningless until news organizations prioritize community over profit. Its meaningless until journalists can pour themselves into telling good stories instead of making the deadline.

Sources:

Daily Source. (2014, September 17). Current Problems in the Media. Retrieved October 19, 2014 from http://www.dailysource.org/about/problems#.VERNy_nF-wl

MSNBC. MSNBC TV Schedule. Retrieved October 19, 2014 from http://www.msnbc.com/schedule

Matier. Ross. (2013, July 24). KTVU firings over airing of prank Asiana pilots’ names. Retrieved October 19th, 2014 from http://blog.sfgate.com/matierandross/2013/07/24/2074/

Dugan, Andrew. Americans Confidence in News Media Remains Low. Retrieved October 19th, 2014 from http://www.gallup.com/poll/171740/americans-confidence-news-media-remains-low.aspx