ASIA/PAKISTAN - Christians in prayer and on pilgrimage for the beatification of Akash Bashir

Tuesday, 14 May 2024 martyrs   youth  

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - "The life of the Servant of God Akash Bashir is an inspiration and a ray of light in Pakistan and in the world plagued by terrorism and unrest," says Father Lazar Aslam OFMCap, a Capuchin priest who lives and works in Lahore, to Fides. During the month of May, the Catholic community of the Archdiocese intensified its prayers for Akash Bashir, the first Servant of God in the history of Pakistan. Many pilgrims visit his tomb, especially young Pakistanis: "His faith in God motivated him to protect and serve his community and led him to perform a gesture of extreme selflessness in the face of a suicide bomber," recalls the friar. Akash Bashir was born on June 22, 1994 in Pakistan in a humble family and attended the Don Bosco Technical Institute in Lahore. He lived a simple life, had dreams for his future, lived with his family, had friends at school and at work, enjoyed sports, and prayer was part of his life. On March 15, 2015, a Sunday morning, a suicide bomber tried to enter the “St. John's Church” in Youhanabad, a Christian district of Lahore, where over a thousand believers were attending mass at the time. Realizing the situation, Akash did not hesitate to sacrifice himself to prevent the bomber from causing a massacre in the church. On March 15, 2022, the seventh anniversary of his death, the Church of Lahore opened the diocesan phase of the canonical process to recognize his martyrdom. Father Aslam recalls: "Jesus taught that the highest form of love is to lay down one's life for one's friends, and his selfless actions reflected these teachings. Akash's final statement, 'I will die, but I will not let you in', perfectly expresses his courage and dedication". "His story," he says, "is a powerful testimony to the transformative power of faith, resilience and sacrifice. It gives hope and inspiration to Christians in Pakistan and beyond. His life reminds us to embody an unwavering faith and to remain steadfast in the face of adversity. His extraordinary path will continue to guide and enlighten our community." According to Father Nobal Lal, rector of the Community of Salesians of Don Bosco in Pakistan, the deep experience of Salesian spirituality derived from Don Bosco's "preventive system" had "a profound and personal influence on the human and spiritual formation of Akash." "It led him to develop a deep understanding and friendship with Christ. Before he began his ministry, he often paused to pray for a moment at the grotto in the courtyard of St. John's Catholic Church. The three basic principles of Salesian spirituality - the preventive system, holistic education and love of God - had a great influence on his development of faith and were important pillars that determined his path," he notes. "In this month of May we pray intensely for the beatification of the Servant of God Akash Bashir, a former disciple of Don Bosco," shares Father Pierluigi Cameroni, Postulator General of the Salesians. The postulator underlines: "For the Christians of Youhanabad, for the Church of God in Pakistan and for the entire family of the Salesians of Don Bosco, Akash, with his great faith, is exactly this: a beacon, an example to follow. Many go to his tomb to pray and ask for intercession". "He had committed himself to living as an honest citizen and a good Christian, as Don Bosco wanted, and had volunteered to provide security in his parish church at a time when the situation in Pakistan was worrying due to the threat of suicide bombings that targeted religious places", recalls Father Cameroni. "This young Salesian, the first Pakistani on the path to the honor of the altars, represents all Christians and all young people who are courageous and proud of their faith," he concludes. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 14/5/2024)