A few times in the last month I’ve mentioned the the tragic death of a brother in the Lord, Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic in Pakistan, a voice against oppression. His death should signal for us that religious freedom is not operative around the world as well as out-and-out persecution of Christians is a too frequent occurrence. Just read the end of the year stats on the deaths of people just because they are Christian published by the Vatican office of Evangelization of Peoples. We can’t under-estimate the our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world face just because they utter Jesus’ name as Lord and Savior: they face death and oppression daily.
In a recently published essay, “The Assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, Jesuit Father Luciano Larivera, explores the details of a Christian’s murder by Islamic extremists. He writes in his summary, “On March 2, a commando of an Islamic terrorist group assassinated Shahbaz Bhatti, 42, the minister of Religious Minorities in Pakistan. He was a Catholic, and is already considered a martyr for the faith and interreligious dialogue. Let us quote the spiritual testament. As with the governor of the province of the Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, who was killed Jan. 4, Bhatti had fought for the abolition, or at least for the reform, of the law against blasphemy and the liberation of Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to be hung for insulting Muhammad. Pakistan is torn apart by numerous tensions and an internal power struggle. Religious violence and intimidation have weakened the Government’s action. The country needs the restoration of an effective criminal justice system, which also prevents and sanctions crimes against religious minorities. La Civiltà Cattolica (3859, 2011, II, pp. 81-90) carries the essay.
The UK’s Guardian carried this obit for Shahbaz Bhatti.
Some people are
suggesting that the Catholic bishops of Pakistan may petition the Pope to say
that the recently murdered Shahbaz Bhatti is a martyr. More will be known
on or after the March 25th meeting of the bishops. Bhatti was gunned down on Marc in Islamabad. Pakistan has about 2.5 Christians.
Bishop Andrew Francis
of Multan: “Bhatti is a man who gave his life for his crystalline faith in
Jesus Christ. It is up to us, the bishops, to tell his story and
experience to the church in Rome, to call for official recognition of his
Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore and president of the
Conference of Bishops said: “The murder of Shahbaz Bhatti means that we
have lost a great leader of our community who stood up for us and articulated
the concerns and fears of our people. We do not have a leader now. Our people
are quite down. They are fearful of the future.”
In the meantime, Paul Bhatti, MD, has been appointed by Pakistan’s Prime Minister to work with minorities, the same job his brother had.
Last week’s murder of Pakistani Catholic Shahbaz Bhatti, 43, was remembered by Pope Benedict. Bhatti was the Minister for Minorities in Pakistani government. Mr. Bhatti leaves behind his Mother, 4 brothers and a sister; his father died in January. He was not married.