Pakistani Christians Celebrate Christmas with Traditional Spirituality . 50th Ward Lacks Transparency and Accountability, Says Ahmed Khan
By Dr. Mujahid Ghazi
Pakistani Christians Celebrates Christmas with Traditional Spirituality
Glimpses of Christmas celebrations and special services offered at various churches by Pakistan Americans in Greater Chicago
Pakistani Americans in Greater Chicago celebrated Christmas by attending special services at various churches and residences. The pastors gave sermons in English as well as in Urdu. In most of these religious meetings they spoke about the mission that Jesus Christ came for.
Speaking at the Indo-Pak United Methodist Church Reverend Earnest Singh told the congregation to keep the spiritual values alive. He said that Christmas doesn’t only mean to have fun and parties but it is the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus by remembering him and his sacrifice for mankind. He said it is incumbent on the followers to spend the Christmas day worshipping their Lord.
A large number of Pakistani Christians along with their Indian co-religionists attended the mass. The children from Sunday school also participated by singing spiritual songs. Urdu/Hindi Gospels were also presented with tabla, harmonium and guitar. The church was very tastefully decorated suiting the occasion. Delicious food was served after these masses. Reverend Javed Akhtar also addressed masses in Deerfield and Roselle.
50th Ward Lacks Transparency and Accountability: Ahmed Khan
Ahmed Khan addresses a press conference at the Chopal Restaurant in Devon Avenue
Ahmed Khan is a 26-year-old young Muslim who is running for Alderman 50th Ward, a predominantly South Asian hub in Chicago. He addressed a press conference in Chopal Restaurant on Devon Avenue. He said he was born in the neighborhood, did schooling here, and played in the parks here. He is involved in his family business off and on since his high school and knows the problems faced by small businesses in this ward. He said that he is a bachelor in Biology from Loyola University but has taken classes in Chicago politics and public administration. He said this inspired him to take a career in public service and the first opportunity he got in politics was to work with a group called Muslim Democrats.
It was a thirteen-State campaign to mobilize Muslims on behalf of Barrack Obama. After that he worked as associate organizer/interfaith liaison for Council of Islamic Organization of Greater Chicago (CIOGC). In that position he worked on lot of interfaith platforms to work for the common good like healthcare and immigration reform, criminal justice and civil rights issues. He said he later worked as Director of Operations at the Indian Muslim Council. While working there, he worked as Director of External Affairs at the Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionals as a board member. “The experience and skills I gained from this experience prompted me to involve in grassroots politics as Alderman of the 50th Ward. Two things that I want to pride myself on are that this is my community. I know it personally first hand,” he said. “As this ward has changed through years, I have grown with this ward and I want to continue to help this ward grow in a better direction,” he claimed.
Answering a question about the problems faced by the community he said that the first problem is the significant lack of transparency and accountability in the way the activities of this ward are undertaken and how the funds are used. Right now the city is in a significant budget deficit and we often have talks about whether we raise taxes or cut services. “My question is why take those actions when we don’t solve the problems that got us here in the first place. We need more fiscal responsibility in the way we deal with our money.
“The Alderman is allocated 1.3 million dollars per year to spend on community development but that money is often siphoned off to private developers, to pocket of communities and not put into projects that are to benefit the entire community. I would work towards making my office open doors and I would make sure the way the money is spent from day one; we publicize that, whether it is on line whether we engage the community through monthly community town-hall forums to let the community know.
“Second, we have a lack of focus on economic development. The 5oth ward is the most diverse ward in the entire City of Chicago. The problem is that there is no unity in the various factions of the community. We need an Alderman who can bring these different communities together to find better solutions, like what needs to be done to enhance the business vitality. We have lot of money that is allocated for small businesses but that money is not given to the entire community of businesses here. May be certain people who are very close to the Alderman get those funds. Then we have lot of empty store fronts on Devon Avenue. Western Avenue has been dead for numerous years. We need an Alderman who understands this problem and can recruit businesses. Give them incentives to bring them to this ward. 50th Ward lags behind in Green Development. There is no environmental sustainability council like there are in other wards.
“Finally, there is a problem in how Tax Increment Financing money is used. The TIF funds. This money is often used for private developers and not for the community. It goes to waste every year. We need an Alderman who uses these funds more transparently because numerous research studies have been conducted by the city suggesting ways to Improve the aesthetic beauty of this ward to transform it into an international market place that it is supposed to be but these funds are not used for these developments.” This is the reason why communities and businesses are moving out of this ward. Answering a question about the pros and cons of the work done by the present Alderman he replied: “The Alderman is not grassroots. He sends people out in the ward but until the Alderman gets out and engages with local businesses and residents the problems are not solved. He lacked communication and failed to offer the local businesses the solutions to their problems. He could have created a business advisory council. Then there is this parking problem for which research studies have been conducted in the past but are very minimally implemented. The parking structures claimed to be solving the problem are badly planned and tend to increase problems rather than solve them.” He said one of the solutions that he would suggest is diagonal parking on the side streets. It would double the parking spots. He said Devon Avenue could be a significant tourist attraction like China Town. “It is my dream to make it such.” On this scribe’s question about the permit parking on the side streets he said that had happened due to lack of communication between local residents, local businesses and the Alderman’s office. He said that the Alderman failed to have community meetings before implementing such permits. He said, “we have to involve the block clubs that exist in the 50th Ward and discuss this issue of permit parking with the community.”