Islamabad (Agenzia Fides) – At this time of year when Pakistan's Catholics mark the fifth anniversary of the death of Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, MP for Minority Groups assassinated in Islamabad on 2 March 2011, the local Church has begun collecting testimony in view of a diocesan enquiry which could lead the Church to declare Bhatti a martyr. Fides learned from Fr. John Williams, a member of the Islamabad diocesan Justice and Peace Commission: “In Islam anyone who dies for the faith is declared ‘shahid’, a martyr. For the Catholic Church the process is longer but a diocesan investigation regarding the matter can be started five years after the person’s death. In the diocese we have begun collecting all the necessary information. The Bishop of Islamabad has given his approval and has involved the diocese of Faisalabad, where Bhatti was born and lived. The Bishop of that diocese at the time was Mons. Joseph Coutts, today in Karachi, and chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India”.
Fr. William continues: “The present Bishop of Islamabad, Bishop Rufin Anthony, was born in the same village as Bhatti, he knows the place, the family and the local community. The circumstances favour a positive outcome and this is the desire of entire community of Pakistani Catholics. People still have vivid memories of Bhatti and in the coming days there will be several commemorations”.
Fr. Bonnie Mendes, also from Faisalabad, who knew Bhatti from childhood told Fides: “We Pakistani Christians are called to bear witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our vocation is to live the Gospel in Pakistan. This means being men and women of peace, responding to evil with goodness, willing to carry the cross with Christ. In this mission we confide in salvation which comes from God not from men. This is the mission lived by Shahbaz Bhatti. He learned from his father to have deep faith and to be faithful to the end. Shahbaz Bhatti was faithful to the point of martyrdom. He wanted emancipation for everyone especially the poor and marginalised. For this he gave his life” . (PA) (Agenzia Fides 1/3/2016)