(AsiaNews) - Bishop John Joseph's contribution in the areas of religion, human
rights, peace and coexistence was recently remembered in Faisalabad cathedral,
14 years after his death. More than 600 people attended the ceremony: priests,
nuns, catechists, educators, student, social workers, political workers and
representatives of civil society organisations.
Mgr John Joseph,
bishop of Faisalabad, was closely involved in human and religious rights. He had
been fighting religious intolerance, especially discriminatory election laws
and the blasphemy legislation, for many years.
In order to highlight
his arguments and bring injustice to the attention of the world, he committed
suicide on 6 May in a court in Sahiwal, where a Catholic man, Ayub Masih, had
been convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death.
bishop took his own life (he had been suffering from depression for some time),
he is a martyr of the faith for many Pakistani Christians.
for the soul of the late prelate, the memorial Mass in Mgr John Joseph's honour
included speeches, poetry readings and religious chants. All those present said
they would continue the mission of the "martyr bishop" under the supervision of
Fr Khalid Rashid Asi, vicar general of the diocese.
Joseph had leadership and communication skills," Fr Samuel George said. "He
knew the art of how to mobilise and motivate people. The martyrdom of Bishop
John Joseph gives us power and motivation to lead a life in his footsteps, and
lay down our lives in a time of crucible and suffering, as a good shepherd does
for his sheep. He had deep feelings in his heart for the poor and marginalised
groups, and was always ready to take away their sufferings."
the 14th death anniversary of martyr bishop is the proof that people
still love him as a true and sincere leader," Fr Khalid Rashid Asi told AsiaNews. "He was the symbol of peace
and justice, and he played a prophetic role for the Christian community. Bishop
John Joseph was an expert in promoting interfaith dialogue, and introduced the
term of interfaith dialogue in Faisalabad Diocese after Pope John Paul II. We learn
from his martyrdom how we can raise our voice against cruelty, injustice and
Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr Nisar Barkat, diocesan
director of National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) said, "We cherish
the memories of the martyr bishop for his great contribution towards human
rights, peace-building, co-existence and harmony. He is remembered as a bridge
creating spaces for different communities to interact with each other
peacefully. He used to provide a platform for people from different backgrounds
to seek ways to lead their lives as a good neighbour. He formed the NCJP in
1985 in order to struggle for justice and peace, and we are still determined to
carry on his mission towards protecting the rights of religious minorities in
Joseph was not only a religious leader, but a social and political leader as
well," said Christian parliamentarian Joel Amir Sahotra. "He had a firm grasp
of religious, social and political affairs, and had the wisdom to solve all problems.
His sacrifice left a leadership gap within Christian community which can never
be filled because his capabilities were matchless and unbeatable."
At the end of
the ceremony, all the participants visited Bishop John Joseph's final resting
place. They lit candles and laid a floral wreath on his grave to pay tribute to
and show respect for the great leader. They also offered special prayers for
the solidarity, progress and prosperity of the country and the welfare of the
people in general and religious minorities in particular.