What images does that word conjure up for you? Terrorism? Osama bin Laden? Cricket? Balti?
I have to confess that up until I moved to Sparkhill (aka Little Pakistan) in Birmingham, I’d never really thought about the country much. There was no reason to. I didn’t know anyone from Pakistan, and back then, the country wasn’t in the news much either. Suddenly I was confronted with a whole different world. The colours! The smells! The food! Amazing!
There was a lot that was alien as well. A lot I didn’t like. But as I made friends, got to know people, I began to understand and appreciate more.
These days, Pakistan regularly makes the headlines. And usually for all the wrong reason. Suicide bombings. Persecution of Christians. And most recently, the terrible terrible shooting of Malala Yousafzai.
But Pakistan is not that easy to put in a box. I discovered a whole new side to the country when listening to an interview with Australian Benjamin Gilmour on Outlook on the BBC World Service (programme dd 17 October 2012). Gilmour is a paramedic himself, who has travelled the world visiting ambulance services in many different places. He commented how in most places, a suicide bombing would lead to chaos in the hospitals, with overcrowded emergency wards and patients being stuck in ambulances. Not so in Pakistan. He explains:
“…it’s because of this sense of civil service. People came from everywhere to clear the wards, to deal with the patients. For no money, for no gain. Just because this is the way they feel about their country, and it’s really wonderful. And this is why Pakistan is somewhere I will always go back to, because as human beings, they inspire me to be a better human being.”
May we see more and more of that side of the country!