12/01/2014, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Lahore dedicates a street to Pakistani Catholic activist Cecil Chaudhry

by Shafique Khokhar
The section of the road that runs by St Anthony's Catholic School, Lahore's cathedral and the archbishop's resident has been renamed after the Air Force group captain, a leading member of the local Catholic community. Leading officials from the Pakistani Armed Forces, as well as members of the late hero's family and ordinary citizens attended the ceremony. For Catholic priest, the dedication is "an honour" for the entire "Christian community".

Lahore (AsiaNews) - In order to honour the late Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry, a war hero, veteran of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and a prominent Catholic leader, the Government of Pakistan has decided to dedicate a street in his name. A section of Lawrence Road, which runs next to the St Anthony's Catholic School, is now Cecil Chaudhry Road, a reminder of the prominent human rights activist who was a source of inspiration for so many Pakistani.

Organised by the Pakistan Air Force, the dedication took place on Saturday in the presence of dignitaries from the Pakistani military, family members, friends of the Catholic leader, important members of the Christian community as well as ordinary citizens.

The ceremony began with a prayer by the Archbishop of Lahore, Mgr Sebastian Shah, followed by a minute of silence in memory of the deceased PAF officer. A documentary prepared by the Pakistan Air Force honouring Cecil Chaudhry's life was also screened.

At the end of the service, a plaque was unveiled on the street dedicated to the hero, a recognition that highlights his achievements as a PAF captain but also as a Catholic activist in the largely Muslim nation where minorities - in particular Christians - are often victims of persecution and abuse.

Speaking at the event, Air Vice Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan paid tribute to Cecil Chaudhry, saying that "there is a Cecil Chaudhry in every Pakistani."

"This is an extremely emotional moment for us as a family," said Michelle Chaudhry, Cecil Chaudhry's daughter and president of The Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF). "We stand humbled and honoured."

After acknowledging this "moment of great pride not only for our family but for the nation at large," she thanked the Chief Minister of Punjab for the initiative and the recognition, and paid tribute to the memory of those who gave their all "defend the borders of this country".

The street now named after Cecil Chaudhry played an important part in his life. Both Lahore's Sacred Heart Cathedral and the Archbishop's House are located on the street as is St Anthony's Catholic High School, where he studied and which he served as principal for 14 years.

For Peter Jacob, prominent Catholic activist and former executive secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Church of Pakistan, the award is "a recognition of his services for the country" and a sign of openness towards the nation's minorities.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr Bonnie Mendes noted that "The renaming of Lawrence Road [. . .] is an honour [. . .] for the Christian community as well." Now it will be "a reminder for posterity of Cecil's untiring services."

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