So what do a Harvard medical graduate, a social activist, a television actress, a movie actress, and an actor in music videos have in common? First, the verb in that question is incorrect. It should read “what does” because all those professions refer to just one person…a woman from Pakistan. Seemi Raheel has a diversified acting portfolio playing everything from a devoted mother to a vamp and has won numerous awards for her acting.
What really interests me about Seemi Raheel, besides her views on being a mother, is her work in gender training. She is, if one asks, an actress but she is also very proud of her heritage. You might think, knowing she is from the sixth largest country in the world which is Pakistan, that she leans towards very traditional roles for women. I did wonder when I first saw the term “gender training” if that was what it meant – the teaching of females to be only the historical roles they have been relegated to in ancient times. Still, she did attend Harvard. Hmmm….
Seemi Raheel does not do fluff roles. Her acting roles as a mother are described as “energetic and dramatic”. Her first film was about a woman abducted, forced into marriage and sexually molested and also addressed changes in Pakistan’s political scene as well as the US government’s role in Pakistani affairs.
Her social activism also benefits from her passionate approach to life. Not only does Seemi Raheel boast an impressive resume, she really is a mother in real life. Her daughter, Mehreen Raheel, studied in London and was a supermodel before she also turned to acting. Both women are a part of their family’s production company but still find time to do humanitarian work.
Gender training, by the way, is teaching people of both genders to communicate better. It may seem like nothing significant but just think of how many of the world’s problems are really from a lack of proper, respectful communication. Mehreen Raheel has worked diligently for children not only in her native Pakistan but also in Thailand, a country where children are exploited at an alarming rate.
Today’s word is faith and I believe both of these women, this mother-daughter duo, are great examples of living their faith and having it propel them forward to live the best they can, not only for themselves but for others.
Seemi Raheel firmly believes in her role as a mother and is proud of it. “My daughter is a realization of a dream, a continuation of myself. I feel the best gift a mother can give to her daughter is independence – instead of mollycoddling and protecting her from the world, she must give her the freedom to discover who she is and be her own person.”
For me, faith gives us independence and if practiced as intended, can and should motivate us to discover who we are and what we have to offer the world. Faith for me is synonymous with courage. All of the practices of faith, attendance at worship, prayers, studies, etc., all are designed to make us better people and more productive neighbors.
The Latin “fidere” is the root of the word faith and it really has nothing to do with deities or religions. It translates as “trust”. Do we really live as if we trust our beliefs? Do we really trust ourselves and our potential?
We cannot help others until we first help ourselves and that can be really difficult at times. It means doing what we know we should and not just what we want to do. I am as guilty of failing in that as most people. Faith is not simple nor is it easy. Neither is living. What makes it easier is when we do it, practice it, live it.
The Persian writer known as Hafez once said: ““And still, after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, “You owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.” J. R. R. Tolkien described it this way: “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”
Bring the optimist I am, of course, I will not leave you with the negative approach. I like C. S. Lewis’ description of living faith: “I believe in [my faith] as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” Faith allows us to grow into who we are, into the potential we can achieve by showing us how to live as neighbors, activists, and caring individuals. It is where humanitarianism begins.