Pakistani Christians Want Shahbaz Bhatti Confirmed as “Martyr of the Church” on Fifth Anniversary of Assassination
Bhatti Remains a National Hero for Pakistan’s Christian Community
3/2/2016 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Christians in Pakistan want to see Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s sole Christian cabinet minister, officially confirmed as a “martyr of the church” by the Catholic Church on the fifth anniversary of his assassination.
On March 2, 2011, Bhatti was gunned down in Islamabad, Pakistan’s federal capital only months after the high profile assassination of Salman Taseer, then governor of Punjab. Both men were murdered for their public opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and for showing public support for Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for allegedly committing blasphemy in June 2009.
Following the fatal attack on Bhatti, police found a letter at the crime scene from the Tehrik-e-Taliban claiming responsibility for the murder, adding that Bhatti was killed for opposing Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. To date, those responsible for Bhatti’s assassination have yet to be brought to justice.
Shamaun Alfred Gill, spokesperson for the All Pakistan Minority Alliance, the political party formed and led by Bhatti, told ICC, “A committee from the Vatican is reviewing Shahbaz Bhatti’s struggle for equal rights and gathering information on is murder. We are hoping that this outspoken hero of the nation will soon be given the official status of martyr by the Vatican for raising his voice for the voiceless in this country.”
Peter Jacob, a human rights activist in Pakistan, said, “I saw him become a seasoned politician. Though his time as a Federal Minister was short and turbulent, having a five percent job quote approved for minority candidates and having August 11 declared as National Minorities Day was a big success to his credit.”
“I will always include Clement in his name,” Father Bonnie Mendes, Executive Secretary of the Office for Human development at the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences. “That is how he was baptized and lived. Shahbaz wanted to liberate the poor. For that, he had to give up his life.”
“He was a hero to the [Christian] community,” said Professor Anjum James Paul, a close friend of Bhatti. “He stood against injustices, inequalities, discrimination, and human rights violations. He remained committed to his call to serve the downtrodden until his last breath. He will be remembered for his extraordinary services.”
ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, William Stark, said, “For many Christians in Pakistan, Shahbaz Bhatti remains a national hero and is already a martyr of the Church. Outspoken and passionate, he was willing to risk his life to protect and ensure the rights of Pakistan’s Christian and other religious minority communities. For this, he was murdered. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws continue to be one of the greatest sources of insecurity for Christians in Pakistan. While the blasphemy laws claim to seek religious harmony through uniformity, in practice, they provide cover for the pursuit of personal vendettas and crush fundamental freedoms for Pakistan’s religious minorities. ICC calls on the Pakistani government to bring Bhatti’s murderers to justice and to take steps to reform the blasphemy laws so they are no longer a tool in the hands of extremists seeking to persecute Pakistan’s religious minorities.”