Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In memoriam Shahbaz Bhatti

"I only want a place at the feet of Jesus. I want my life, my character, my actions to speak for me and say that I am a follower of Jesus Christ."
 – Shahbaz Bhatti (September 9, 1968 – March 2, 2011)

"I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ who has given His own life for us. I know what is the meaning of [the] Cross ... I'm ready to die for a cause ... These threats and these warnings cannot change my opinions and principles."
 – Shahbaz Bhatti, four months before his martyrdom
Bhatti's close colleague shared the [above] video with Al Jazeera saying that Bhatti had requested him to do so in the eventuality of his assassination because "it is with the Muslim world I want to share the message of love. That is the only message that can bring the Muslim world out of the circle of hate and killings".
Shahbaz Bhatti standing with Martha Bibi who was unjustly accused of blasphemy in 2007
“The blasphemy law only serves as a means to settle personal disputes, always to the detriment of minorities. This is why it should be completely abolished.”
– Shahbaz Bhatti 2007

Shahbaz Bhatti with Asia Bibi’s daughters, Sidra and Ashi, at his office
Sidra and Esham, daughters of Aasia Bibi, listen to Shahbaz Bhatti
“The president asked me to investigate her [Asia Bibi's] case and my preliminary findings show she is innocent and the [blasphemy] charges against her are baseless.”
 – Shahbaz Bhatti 2010

“During this Bibi case I constantly received death threats. Since the assassination of Salmaan Taseer… these messages are coming to me even publicly.”
 - Shahbaz Bhatti 2011
Bhatti said fatwas, or religious decrees, had been issued calling for him to be beheaded, by extremist clerics in the country who were allowed to publicly spread messages of violence with impunity.

“The government should register cases against all those using hate speeches,” said Bhatti, who insists he will work as usual despite the threats.

“I’m not talking about special security arrangements. We need to stand against these forces of terrorism because they’re terrorising the country.

“I cannot trust on security…. I believe that protection can come only from heaven, so these bodyguards can’t save you.”
"I thank God for giving me this opportunity to continue my struggle for the oppressed minorities in Pakistan."
 – Shahbaz Bhatti 2011
President Asif Ali Zardari confirms Shahbaz Bhatti as Minister of minorities, after the cabinet reshuffle that took place yesterday following the resignation of the staff of the federal cabinet presented in recent days by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani.

According to sources close to the presidency, the government has confirmed Bhatti only after strong pressure from the international community concerned about the recent cases of violence against minorities because of the blasphemy law. A young Christian man was killed in recent days in Ghakkar Mandi (Punjab), while Asia Bibi, the young Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy who is still waiting for her appeal to be heard in the Court of Lahore.
 – 02/12/2011
"Christians and other minorities are citizens of Pakistan and have the same rights as any other citizen, because our ancestors sacrificed their lives for this country".
 – Shahbaz Bhatti 2011

As a Christian, I believe Jesus is my strength. He has given me a power and wisdom and motivation to serve suffering humanity. I follow the principles of my conscience, and I am ready to die and sacrifice my life for the principles I believe.”
 – Shahbaz Bhatti 2011

For the bishop of Islamabad, it is a sad and bitter day for the entire country. He remembers the minister as a “devout Catholic” who lived under “constant threat”.

“It is a sad incident, a sad day not only for minorities” but also “for humanity,” said Mgr Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi as he spoke to AsiaNews, after hearing the news about the coldblooded murder of Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti. “This should be an eye opener for minorities and the government. How much more blood will it take to realise that enough is enough,” he said.

As he remembered Shahbaz Bhatti’s precious work on behalf of Catholics and other minorities, Mgr Anthony could not stop speaking of such a “sad incident,” a bitter day not only for minorities but for mankind as well.

The prelate knew the minister’s everyday schedule. “Bhatti’s daily routine was that he used to go to meet his mother, pray with her. He used to call me and ask me to pray for him every morning,” the bishop said.

Badly shaken by the murder, he went on talking about Bhatti. “I remember him as a child; he regularly attended the Church; he was passionate since childhood. He was under threat and the government did not provide sufficient security.” He “was a brave man, a man of courage, he took a stand for the minorities,” the bishop of Islamabad reiterated.

“When he took the oath for the new cabinet,” after President Ali Zardari had it reshuffled, “he said he would fight till the last drop of his blood. He proved himself, stood firm and paid the price by his blood."

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  1. UPDATE: I added a video which Shahbaz Bhatti had told a friend that he wanted released if he was martyred.

  2. Thank you for posting this vigil in memory of Shahbaz Bhatti. May his voice joins that of the saints, crying out from under God's altar in Heaven for justice.

  3. @Just a guy - Shahbaz reminds us all what it is to be a true Christian. We don't have much experience with Christian martyrs in our world. It makes the lives of the martyrs of the early Church seem that much more real and relevant. It also reminds us that there have been Christian martyrs in all parts of the world such as in Japan and in Uganda.

  4. President Obama released this written statement:

    I am deeply saddened by the assassination of Pakistan's Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti today in Islamabad, and condemn in the strongest possible terms this horrific act of violence. We offer our profound condolences to his family, loved ones and all who knew and worked with him.

    Minister Bhatti fought for and sacrificed his life for the universal values that Pakistanis, Americans and people around the world hold dear -- the right to speak one's mind, to practice one's religion as one chooses, and to be free from discrimination based on one's background or beliefs.

    He was clear-eyed about the risks of speaking out, and, despite innumerable death threats, he insisted he had a duty to his fellow Pakistanis to defend equal rights and tolerance from those who preach division, hate, and violence.

    He most courageously challenged the blasphemy laws of Pakistan under which individuals have been prosecuted for speaking their minds or practicing their own faiths.

    Those who committed this crime should be brought to justice, and those who share Mr. Bhatti's vision of tolerance and religious freedom must be able to live free from fear. Minister Bhatti will be missed by all who knew him, and the United States will continue to stand with those who are dedicated to his vision of tolerance and dignity for all human beings.