Speak­ing up for rights and free­dom

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By MON­ICA TISCHLER

Asy­lum seeker Khur­ram Ma­lik knows first-hand what it’s like to live in fear with­out free­dom of speech.

The 37-year-old is from Pak­istan where he was in­flu­en­tial in fight­ing against harsh penal­ties en­forced by the coun­try’s blas­phemy law.

Ma­lik, who now lives in Auck­land, was ap­palled to see cit­i­zens sen­tenced to death or life im­pris­on­ment for go­ing against Is­lamic be­liefs and he worked hard to ‘‘stop mis­use of the law’’.

He re­ceived con­stant taunts for stand­ing up for what he be­lieved in and says an­gry ex­trem­ists once tried to shoot him.

Ma­lik fled to New Zealand in 2009 and his wife and three chil­dren fol­lowed a year later.

He com­pleted an English di­ploma and na­tional cer­tifi­cate in men­tal health at Unitec and is now a com­mu­nity sup­port worker for IHC Auck­land’s Timata Hou.

His role en­cour­ages in­tel­lec­tu­ally dis­abled New Zealan­ders to live in­de­pen­dent lives and uses his back­ground as a plat­form to give them free­dom and a voice.

‘‘People have rights here in New Zealand and we’re teach­ing them to speak up if they’re not happy about some­thing,’’ he says.

‘‘It’s about en­forc­ing a pos­i­tive life­style and help­ing people achieve goals by tak­ing them shop­ping, ap­ply­ing for jobs or ob­tain­ing a driv­ers li­cence,’’ Ma­lik says.

‘‘It’s re­ward­ing and chal­leng­ing.’’

Ma­lik un­der­stands how dif­fi­cult it can be to find the in­de­pen­dence to live a sta­ble life.

He slept in night shel­ters and ate at the Auck­land City Mis­sion be­fore he man­aged to find a job as a dish­washer and mop­ping floors at a restau­rant.

He later vol­un­teered with refugees in Mt Roskill and Man­gere and at the Sal­va­tion Army.

Of­fer­ing oth­ers a bet­ter qual­ity of life has been his fo­cus for the ma­jor­ity of his ca­reer.

He used his home­o­pathic med­i­cal sci­ence back­ground to es­tab­lish the glob­ally recog­nised or­gan­i­sa­tion Hope World­wide Pak­istan in his home­land in 1998.

Marginalised cit­i­zens were en­cour­aged to as­pire to greater things through free med­i­cal camps, ed­u­ca­tion and Sun­day school classes.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion had 25 staff work­ing tire­lessly across Pak­istan by 2005.

It sent medicine, clothes, food and sup­plies from blood banks to vic­tims of the Kash­mir earthquake that wreaked havoc later that year, re­sult­ing in 75,000 ca­su­al­ties.

Ma­lik is now 12 months into com­plet­ing a three-year so­cial prac­tice de­gree at Unitec.

He says study­ing in New Zealand and Pak­istan has given him an un­der­stand­ing of the dif­fer­ent cul­tures and sys­tems.

‘‘Learn­ing here has been a good path­way to work with New Zealan­ders,’’ Ma­lik says.

Photo: MON­ICA TISCHLER

– Khur­ram Ma­lik

Chal­leng­ing back­ground: Khur­ram Ma­lik, 37, is ded­i­cat­ing his time to help Ki­wis ex­press their opin­ion.

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