ASIA/PAKISTAN - Shahbaz Bhatti: Remembering the murdered Catholic politician

Monday, 11 March 2024

Islamabad (Agenzia Fides) - Every year in Pakistan, the Catholic politician Shahbaz Bhatti is remembered, killed by terrorists in Islamabad on March 2, 2011 at the age of 42. His personal story and his political commitment are thus remembered and are a source of inspiration for Christian communities of all denominations that gather to commemorate the anniversary of his death. Events and commemorations were held in various cities of Pakistan such as Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Faisalabad and Kushpur, his home village, which were also attended by Muslims and believers from other faiths.
“I just want to have a place at the feet of Jesus,” wrote Minister Bhatti in his spiritual will, expressing his desire to be like Christ in every gesture of his existence, including and especially in political activity, at the service of the common good. "The feelings present in all sectors of society today are those of gratitude and reflection on his mission to build a just, peaceful and tolerant nation in Pakistan where religious minorities exercise equal rights and live in peace and harmony with the Muslim believers, in the name of respect and mutual recognition. This is a valuable lesson for today's Pakistan," emphasizes Father Emmanuel Parvez. The priest from Faisalabad was the spiritual father of Shahbaz Bhatti. "The minister lives on in the minds of believers as a 'voice for the voiceless', as a defender of the oppressed and poor of all religions, as a promoter of justice and peace," he explains. Allama Muhammad Ahsan Siddiqui, President of the Interreligious Commission for Peace and Harmony (ICPH), remembered the politician with the following words: "Shahbaz Bhatti was a true promoter of religious tolerance, of interreligious harmony and a true defender of human dignity. He is an internationally known personality, a great liberator who sacrificed his life to preserve religious freedom for future generations. His selfless commitment to equality for all citizens of Pakistan will always be remembered." The Islamic cleric recalls that the minister "received death threats and told those who advised him to emigrate: I am a disciple of Christ, I will never abandon my country and my people. Now it is up to us to ensure that the work begun by Shahbaz Bhatti is not abandoned". According to Anglican Bishop Samuel Azariah, who attended an event commemorating Bhatti in Islamabad, "like Bhatti, we should seek God's guidance and win the hearts of our fellow Pakistanis through the message of acceptance, peace, love, care and unity." Romana Bashir, a Christian and human rights activist said: "Shahbaz Bhatti's martyrdom left the Christian community orphaned: he sought to unite a society divided by religion, sect, ethnicity and language. Shahbaz reminded us that minorities played a key role in the founding of Pakistan and we want to continue to play that role." Catholic and social worker Sabir Michael, who advocates for the poorest, notes: "As Christians in Pakistan, we remember Shahbaz Bhatti as our leader who gave his life to protect the human dignity of religious minorities. He called for Pakistan's government to end the abuse of the blasphemy law that continues to cause so much suffering. He tried to make Pakistan a better nation. And he did everything in the name of Jesus Christ. For us he is a saint". Commemorative events and conferences were also held in several other countries and continents, where Shahbaz Bhatti was honored by Pakistanis in the diaspora as well as by leaders from abroad. In Italy, Paul Bhatti, the brother of the killed minister, spoke at a conference in the Senate of the Republic organized by the "Association of Pakistani Christians in Italy". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 11/3/2024)