(AsiaNews) - Two months after the death of Cecil Chaudhry, the Christian community
paid tribute once more to the Pakistan Air Force pilot and national hero who
promoted the ideal of "one nation, one people". A Catholic and the activist for
human and civil rights, he died on 13 April after a long illness. Thousands of people
took part in the funeral. On Saturday, at least 500 people, both Christians and
Muslims, gathered at Lahore's Sacred Heart Cathedral for a memorial service. Bishops,
priests, nuns, human rights activists and ordinary citizens attended the
ceremony; poems were read, special prayers were recited; speeches were made in
his memory. Mgr Joseph Coutts, archbishop of Karachi, led the Eucharistic
celebration at the end.
in Dalwal (Punjab) on 27 August 1941 into a Catholic family, Cecil Chaudhry had
"deep faith" in Christ. In 1958, he joined the Pakistan Air Force academy. In his
military career, he took part in the India-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971 during
which he participated in high-risk operations, earning two medals of valour.
retired from active duty in 1986 with the rank of colonel. As a non-Muslim, he
could never occupy the post of Chief of the Armed Forces, but he did play a key
role in the process of reconciliation between India and Pakistan. He also began
to fight for human rights and youth education, especially for minorities.
about the religious constraints on his career in the military, the one
institution that retains the "real" power in the country, the director of Human
Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) I.A. Rehman said, "He did not allow
discrimination to stop him work for the nation." Instead, he turned his
attention to "education and human rights".
could have become a multi millionaire [. . .] but instead he thought of his
nation," said Fr Bonnie Mendes. The Faisalabad priest who is also regional coordinator
for Caritas Asia was referring here to the honesty and integrity Chaudhry
showed during negotiations with France over the purchase of fighter planes. "Cecil
did not want material wealth, but the richness that comes from love and family,"
he explained. In fact, on several occasions, he urged his fellow citizens to
build a Pakistan that was "one people, one nation."
Bashrat, a young Christian from Lahore who attended the celebration, said that
he has been inspired by Chaudry's "struggle for the rights of the oppressed." Speaking
to AsiaNews, he said that Chaudhry "was
a true model for young Pakistani Christians," because he represented a "living
witness of how one can be a Christian in a Muslim society."
many occasions, he urged "Christian families to educate their children," and
provided scholarships to deserving students from poor families. In veiled
criticism, Shalom said that Chaudhry was different from today's Christian
leaders who are too interested "in their own interests" rather than the common
Shaheed, a young Christian woman, also took part in the memorial service. For her,
Chaudhry was "My hero and ideal". He was "not only a defender of Pakistan but
also a great defender of human rights and a promoter of peace."
the 1990s, Cecil Chaudhry became the secretary of the All Pakistan Minorities
Alliance (APMA), a group founded in 1985 by Shahbaz Bhatti.
the last part of his life, he worked with the minister assassinated by Muslim
fundamentalists, devoting himself to school reforms for disabled children.
was also an active supporter of the National Commission for Justice and Peace
and was involved for 14 years in the campaign that led to the re-establishment
of universal suffrage in 2002.
Laldin contributed to this article)