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Dr.James Shera; The pride and true face of Pakistan

By: Ayaz Morris

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It is said that by constantly trying in life, you finally get the rewards for which you are working hard and pursuing for.

These things seem useless and bookish to unsuccessful people, but those who have the desire and dedication to do something; they are well aware of this fact.

Consistency and persistence are the keys to success. In today’s article, you will meet one of such Pakistani who raised the flag of Pakistan in the British land with his excellent services in education, interfaith harmony and public services. He has created his unique identity with his contribution and has improved Pakistani soft image with dignity.

I came to know about his story through an article by Mr. Iqbal Chishti in 2006. His story impressed me a lot and from that time I had a desire in my heart to meet him. Life gave me an opportunity to talk to him. The wheel of time and circumstances kept turning fast and in 2022, one of my mentor Dr. Naeem Mushtaq interviewed him online, after watching his interview, I took the number of Dr. James Shera from Dr.Naeem and WhatsApp him messaged with my name.

My surprise and joy was beyond measure when Dr. James Shera personally called me and we had a long conversation. Many articles on the life, services and personality of Dr. James Shera have been published in many local and international newspapers. Such a great and history-making personality cannot be covered in a single article, but I will try to share with you a brief introduction of his life, personality and services.

Dr.James Shera, was born in a small village ( Lohianwala) of Gujranwala on March 6, 1946, in the house of Mehnga Masih and Barkat Bibi, when he was young, no one would have thought that this boy would one day become a pride for his parents, family, region and country in the world. James Shera’s family, consisting of Brother Morris Bhatti and Sister Bilquis Maryam, belonged to a Catholic Christian family. His father was a farmer and studied only up to the fifth standard, while his mother did not go to school at all. Dr. James Shera said that it was his mother’s strong desire that he should get an education.

Seeing his parents working hard, Dr. James Shera made hard work his companion from the very beginning. He got his primary education from the village Madrasa and after that he traveled three kilometers away from the village by walk. In-dependency and the desire to do something made Dr. James Shera self-ignite. He used to take milk from his village and sell it in the city so that he could bear the burden of his own expenses and education. Through hard work, luck, circumstances and time, Dr. James reached Shera FC University Lahore , from where he got a scholarship for higher studies in Belgium, but how he got there and how he got his visa is a long & interesting story.

Dr James Shera says that his parents love him very much and he considers himself lucky to have received immense love and affection from his Pakistani Christians and Muslims in Pakistan and abroad. He always urges Pakistanis and especially the youth to work hard and do their work honestly.

He says always think for Pakistan and for the people. I lived my life under this goal and it changed my mind set.

Dr. James Shera’s list of achievements and honors is long, but a few stand out.
Recently, he was awarded the “Hilal-e- Qaid-i-Azam” on the Golden Jubilee of Pakistan on August, 2022

Key Roles and Achievements:

He started his career as a teacher at Newbold Middle School 1977- 87, been Head of Environmental Studies 1981- 1987.
Employment and Education
• County Advisor, Intercultural Education, Warwickshire County Council, 1987-1995.
• Director, Intercultural Curriculum Support Service (ICSS) Warwickshire County Council, Education Department, 1995 – 2011.
• Managed annual budget of £2Million, provided strategic leadership to this key programme of Warwickshire County Council, well- targeted, high-quality and much valued intercultural support to 450 schools and colleges to enable them to raise the achievement of Black, Minority and Ethnic (BME) pupils, Gypsy Roma Travellers, new arrivals from EU countries and the world at large
• Board of Governors, Coventry University, 2005 to 2011.
• Member of the Equalities and Inclusion Partnership Board, 2011- 2019
• Board of Governors, Warwickshire College, 2004 to 2010.
• Board of Governors and Trustee, Newman University College, Birmingham, 2011– 2013. Supported it to acquire full university status.
• Board of Governors, Ashlawn High School, 1992-1997.
• Board of Governors, Avon Valley High School, Newbold, 1991-1995.
• Chair, Board of Governors, Northlands Primary School, 1987–1999. Helped to change the status of the school from Infant to Primary, and raised academic achievements.
• Chair, Board of Governors, St Andrew’s C of E Primary School, 1985 – 2006. Raised the educational achievement of all children, in particular those of Pakistani origin. School awarded Investors in People status for exemplary practice.
• Board Member, Oxford Mission Centre, Oxford, 2001 – 2005. The centre empowers Christian leadership in the developing world and provides post-graduate degrees and research facilities.
• Commission Member of the Catholic Commission for Racial Justice, 1982–1987. An Advisory Board to the Catholic Bishops of England & Wales.
Key Appointments:
• Associate Director, NHS Arden Cluster, Coventry and Warwickshire, 2011 – 2014.
• Chair of Equality, Diversity and Human Rights Group, NHS Arden Cluster, Coventry and Warwickshire, 2011 – 2014.
• Non-Executive Director, West Midland South Strategic Health Authority (NHS), May 2002 – to June 2006.
• Vice-Chairman, West Midland South Strategic Health Authority (NHS), September 2003 – to June 2006.
• Chair, Audit Committee, West Midland South Strategic Health Authority (NHS), May 2002 – to June 2006.
• Non-Executive Director, Warwickshire Health Authority, April 1998 – March 2002.
• Vice-Chairman, Warwickshire Health Authority, 1999 – Dec 2001.
• Chairman, Audit Committee, Warwickshire Health Authority,
• April 1999 – Dec 2001. Responsible for a £ 900m budget.
• Chairman, Warwickshire Health Authority,
• December 2001 – March 2002.
• Non-Executive Director, Warwickshire Primary Care Trust
• (NHS Warwickshire) 2006 – 2011.
• Vice-Chair, Warwickshire Primary Care Trust (NHS) 2006 – 2011.
• Chair HR/OD Committee, NHS Warwickshire, 2007 – 2011.
• Chair Diversity and Equality Committee, NHS Warwickshire,
• 2006 – 2011.
• Chair Estate Committee of NHS Warwickshire, 2007 – 2011.
• Member of Audit Committee, NHS Warwickshire, 2006 – 2011.
• Board of Visitors of Her Majesty’s Prison, Onley, Rugby,
• 1982 – 1992.
• Member of Adjudication Board, Office of the Supervision of Solicitors, (formerly Solicitors Complaints Bureau for England & Wales) 1988 – 1998.
• Member of Policy Advisory Committee, the Law Society, England and Wales. Helped to establish the Equal Opportunity policy for solicitors. 1990-1996.
• Member of Parole Board for England & Wales, 1996-1998.
• Board Member, Office of the Electricity Regulator (Midlands),
• 1993 – 1995.
• General Income Tax Commissioner for Rugby and Southam, Warwickshire, 1995 – 2009.
Awards:
• Awarded Honorary Doctorate in from Coventry University 2022.
• Awarded MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, June 2007, for services to the NHS and communities in the Midlands.
• Awarded Freeman of the Borough of Rugby, April 2017 for long-standing eminent services to the borough and its residents.
• Awarded Star of Pakistan, 1992 by the President of Pakistan (third highest public award by Government of Pakistan) in recognition of fostering good relationships between the U.K. and Pakistan and interfaith relations.
• Awarded another ‘Star of Pakistan’ 2010 by the Pakistani Business Forum, London.
• Awarded Formanite Fellowship by the Forman Christian College University, Lahore, Pakistan, 2016.
• Awarded Honorary Doctorate in Business Administration, Bedfordshire University, 2010.
• Awarded Honorary PhD in Arts & Letters by the Forman Christian College University, Lahore, Pakistan, 2021
• Awarded Honorary Doctor in Education by Coventry University. Confirmed but to be awarded in July 2021
• Awarded ‘Gold Certificate’, 1991 for raising £1.7 million to build a new 32 bed extension to Walsgrave Hospital for cancer patients, Hospital Cancer Ward Appeal.
• Awarded ‘Gold Certificate’, 2000 for raising £1 million for Rugby Hospice Appeal to build a new hospice.
• Awarded ‘Rugbeian of the Year’, 1995 by Rokeby Lions International for voluntary services to the local community.
• Made ‘Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts’, 1997 for services to Education.
• Made ‘Fellow of Warwickshire College’ and Chair of Fellows Committee, 2010 -2015
• Road named by Rugby Borough Council and Warwickshire College “James Shera Way”, 2009. Awarded in recognition for services to local people and in raising £7.5 million to contribute towards the development of Warwickshire College.
Voluntary Sector Experience (Past)
• Member of the Pakistan Focus Group, 2011 – 2016. Established by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
• Chair, Warwickshire Race Equality Partnership, February 2008 to 2017.
• Chair, Rugby Race Equality Council, 1986– 2005.
• Member, Christian Forum in Support of Persecuted Minorities Worldwide, London, 2001 – 2005, chaired by Rt. Rev. Tom Butler, Bishop of Southward. Established under the auspices of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and the Church Missionary Society.
• Chair and founder of the Inter-faith Millennium Project, 1999-2000. Achieved greater religious partnership and understanding between all major faiths. Marked the new millennium by planting trees, joint community functions and led a civic march.
• Chair, Asian Christian Organisation UK, 1990-1996.
• Member of Diocesan Advisory Committee on Race to the Anglican Bishop of Coventry, 1994-1997.
• Board Member & National Trustee, Barnardo’s Children’s Charity, and 1997 – 2006. Helped Barnardo’s to extend their work to meet the needs of our multi-faith society, at board and service level.
• Chair, Audit Committee. Barnardo’s Children’s Charity, 1999 – 2006. Responsible for overseeing an annual budget of over £420 million.
• Pakistan Flood Appeal – September 2010. Raised £10,000, match funded by Circle of Life Charity. Established three water filtration plants for the flood affected area of Pakistan in partnership with Circle of Life. These three plants are in the Nowshara area, in the North of Pakistan and are supported by the people of Warwickshire. BBC radio 5 and BBC Asian Network have visited the site and broadcasted from there.
• Chair, Fundraising Pakistan Earthquake Appeal, November 2005. Raised over £20,000 and also sent two ambulances converted into mobile hospitals to Pakistan.
• Chairman and founder of Rugby Hospice, 1999 – 2005. Provides care for terminally ill patients. Raised £1.5 million. Developed new Hospice at Home service.
• Chair, Walsgrave Hospital Cancer Ward Appeal, 1989–1990. Assisted in raising £1.75 million.
• Board Member & Trustee of Orbit Housing Association, National & Midland Region, 1989–1997. This association owns 35,000 housing stock in England and provides affordable housing to local communities. Increased housing stock from 15,000 to 35,000 and established elderly residential homes and specialist service.
• Board Member & National Trustee of Intermediate Technology Development Group, 1990–1997. International Charity to help the developing world to use appropriate technology.
• Member of Rotary Club, 1989-1997 and helped to raise money for various charitable projects.
• Member of Audit Committee of Coventry University, 2007 – 2011.
• Member of Finance Committee, Warwickshire College Consortium, 2004 -2010.
• Supported the Muslim community to raise a substantial amount of funds for the renovation of the Rugby Mosque in October 1999.
• Assisted the Sikh community to establish their specialist daycare facilities for the elderly in 1997 and start Punjabi classes in partnership with the LEA.
• Assisted the West Indian Association to establish their daycare centre in 1998 and a Saturday School for African Caribbean children.
• Assisted the Pakistani Community to establish their daycare and community centre in 1998.
• Established a Drop-in Centre for the unemployed, the youth and the elderly in Rugby, 1995-1997.
Rugby Borough Council
• Councillor, Rugby Borough Council, 1982 – 2022.
• Leader of the Labour Group, Rugby Borough Council, 2006 to 2014.
• Chair, Overview and Scrutiny Board, Rugby Borough Council, 2010 to 2014.
• Mayor, Rugby Borough Council, 1988-89.
• Freeman of the Borough 2017- to date.
Ex Pakistani Ambassador for UK Mohammad Nafees Zakaria said “He is influential, respected among Parliamentarians, civil society & mobilizes opinion. He never lost Cllr election in 40 years. I take great pride in saying that I have longstanding friendship with Dr. James & together we have pursued HR related issues & welfare of common people.”
Ex Pakistani Ambassador Wajid Shamsul Hasan wrote about him
“Dr. Shera is widely traveled leader who is much sought after as a speaker on various occasions in different countries and his main forte is Interfaith Harmony. This has given him a well-deserved title of a bridge between continents and communities to make love and bury hatred. He has a gift of the gab that puts his audience in deep trance. Whether the forum is United Nations Conference in Istanbul or any other platform in Oxford or elsewhere—his thoughts and delivery carries the day with great aplomb.

What is most outstanding about him is that often he has found himself –a Christian- nominated by the Muslims to represent them in international fora.”

Trainer and interfaith dialogue expert Dr. Naeem Mushtaq says “Dr. James Shera is a true patriotic Pakistani who is free from discrimination of religion, color, caste and language.

He is a genuine and dignified Pakistani, Who always worked for the betterment of Pakistanis.”

Bishop Mano Rumalshah says “Dr.James Shera is a pure person who always advocated humanity and philanthropy. He has immense love and devotion for Pakistan in his heart.”

Renowned writer Iqbal Chishti says “When he met James Shera in the UK in 1970, he immediately realized that James Shera had immense leadership skills. Iqbal Chishti says that he told James Shera that a one day you will be the mayor and I wish you will be the Prime Minister of Great Britain. It is still possible but Dr. James Shera’s health did not cooperate. James Shera is a precious diamond and a man in whose development my role is a miracle of nature.”

Mr. Manzoorul Haq, the former ambassador of Pakistan in London, writes in one of his articles, “In recognition of his services in the field of education, the University of Headfordshire awarded him an honorary doctorate and a road leading to Warwick College was named after him.”James Shera Way” has been placed.

This honor has been given to a person of Pakistani origin for the first time and to a living personality. Earlier in 2007, he was awarded the title of MBE by the Queen of Great Britain in recognition of his services in the field of education.

Rugby Borough held a prestigious ceremony on 27th April to recognize Dr James Shera for his public service and awarded him the title of “Freedom of Borough”. It is a great honor.

I congratulate my friend James Shera and the people of Rugby. I also pay tribute to those who valued this rare gem. Today we desperately need such people to promote tolerance and prevent violent behavior.”

Many important personalities played their important role in the life of Dr. James Shera, but he mentions the famous educationist Prof. Dr. Akbar S. Ahmed in golden letters, who made his name and place among others on the basis of professionalism. Noor Jahan, wife of Dr. James Shera, did her Masters from FC College along with him and supported him throughout his life.

His son Azeem Shera is a businessman. Dr. James Shera’s life is proof that a person can climb any mountain in the world thanks to his determination and courage. Dr. James Shera is the pride of Pakistan, the true identity of Pakistan and the real positive face of Pakistan. We salute your services and greatness. You are absolute gem of Pakistan.

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