25 July, 2014 AsiaNews.it Twitter AsiaNews.it Facebook            

Help AsiaNews | About us | P.I.M.E. | | RssNewsletter | Mobile





mediazioni e arbitrati, risoluzione alternativa delle controversie e servizi di mediazione e arbitrato
e-mail this to a friend printable version


» 06/12/2012
PAKISTAN
Cecil Chaudhry: heroic Christian witness among Pakistani Muslims
by Shafique Khokhar
Two months after his death, the Christian community remembers the high-ranking Air Force officer and Catholic leader. Hundreds or people attended the memorial service, including Muslims. Human rights activist remembers his capacity to stand up to discrimination. For Fr Mendes, he was an honest family man. For a young Pakistani woman, he was "My hero and ideal."

Lahore (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.

Born 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.

He 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.

Speaking 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".

"Cecil 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."

Shalom 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."

On 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 good.

Nazia 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."

In the 1990s, Cecil Chaudhry became the secretary of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), a group founded in 1985 by Shahbaz Bhatti.

In the last part of his life, he worked with the minister assassinated by Muslim fundamentalists, devoting himself to school reforms for disabled children.

Chaudhry 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.

(Joseph Laldin contributed to this article)


e-mail this to a friend printable version

See also
04/14/2012 PAKISTAN
Cecil Chaudhry, Catholic human rights activist, dies
by Jibran Khan
07/20/2012 PAKISTAN
Punjab asks that an air force base be named after Cecil Chaudhry
by Shafique Kokhar
11/15/2007 PAKISTAN
Countdown for democracy in Islamabad
by Qaiser Felix
07/14/2008 INDIA – PAKISTAN
India blames Pakistan for Kabul bombing but continues peace talks
by Nirmala Carvalho
11/09/2011 INDONESIA
Indonesia: historic Catholic leader becomes a national hero
by Mathias Hariyadi

Editor's choices
VATICAN
Pope: I am with the persecuted Christians of Mosul and the Middle East "May the God of peace inspire in all a genuine desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is never defeated with violence. Violence is defeated with peace." At the Sunday Angelus Francis comments on the parable of the wheat and the weeds. God is "patient" He knows "the same weeds in the end, may become good wheat". But "at the time of the harvest, that is, of judgment, the reapers will execute the order of the master separating the weeds to be burned".
CHINA - VATICAN
Beijing, seminarians desert graduation ceremony: We will not celebrate Mass with illegitimate bishops The rector of the seminary is the illegitimate bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin: Students refuse to concelebrate with him and reject Msgr. Fang Xingyao, who has participated in several illegal episcopal ordinations. The directors close the year without awarding diplomas and send students home: rumors of some courses being "suspended" in September. The precedent of 2000, when 130 young students chose fidelity to the Pope over compromise with the government.
HONG KONG-CHINA-VATICAN
Card Zen: Religious freedom and civil liberties are united, for China and Hong Kong
by Bernardo CervelleraA wide ranging conversation with the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong: the courage of Msgr. Ma Daqin, who sent a message to Pope Francis; underground Catholics are also prepared to be arrested; suspicions about Beijing’s sincerity towards possible dialogue with the Holy See. And in Hong Kong, the march for a referendum on democracy; support for "Occupy Central"; the fear of the government and arrests. Card. Zen reaffirms that religious freedom and civil liberties go hand in hand.

Dossier
by Giulio Aleni / (a cura di) Gianni Criveller
pp. 176
by Lazzarotto Angelo S.
pp. 528
by Bernardo Cervellera
pp. 240
Copyright © 2003 AsiaNews C.F. 00889190153 All rights reserved. Content on this site is made available for personal, non-commercial use only. You may not reproduce, republish, sell or otherwise distribute the content or any modified or altered versions of it without the express written permission of the editor. Photos on AsiaNews.it are largely taken from the internet and thus considered to be in the public domain. Anyone contrary to their publication need only contact the editorial office which will immediately proceed to remove the photos.