(AsiaNews) - Persecuted religious minorities and communities saw in Shahbaz
Bhatti a "leader willing to protect them", a "courageous and determined"
politician who found in the "Christian faith" the strength to meet challenges. This
is how Paul Bhatti remembers his brother, Minority Affairs minister, a Catholic,
who was killed on 2 March 2011 by extremists.
after his death, AsiaNews has
interviewed his brother who is perpetuating Shabbaz's political and spiritual
legacy. As special adviser to Prime Minister Gilani on minority affairs, "I am trying
to fill a void," Paul said. Initially, he took on the task with "concern"
followed by awareness and determination.
various communities-Christians, Muslims, Hindus, etc-are getting ready to
honour Shabbaz's memory with Masses, a torchlight procession and prayer vigils
on 2 March and with an important political and interfaith conference on 6
March, in the capital.
the interview Paul Bhatti (pictured with
Benedict XVI and the imam of Lahore) gave AsiaNews:
Bhatti, what is Shabbaz's legacy?
left a big void that I am trying to fill. People feel the lack of a leader,
someone who can protect them. Minorities that they could on his protection. They
knew that he would act in case of discrimination and injustice at the national
and international level. He was a great presence and support. With his death,
the community felt abandoned, rudderless. We have tried to pick up from where
he left off to continue his mission. Personally, I am happy to do it. At the
beginning, I did not think I could and I was very concerned. Now, concerns are
slowly fading away and I am increasingly aware of the importance of this
year later, is his memory still alive?
feel it at all levels, political, social and institutional. He had a special
personality. He was popular, not only among Christians but also among Muslims
and Hindus. Wherever I go, people remember him fondly and sorely miss him. They
talk about him as someone worthy of "honour and respect". For this reason, we
have organised a series of events to honour his memory the best we can. On 2 March,
Christian communities across Pakistan will celebrate Masses and prayers in the
country's churches. In addition, on the morning of the anniversary, there will
be a Mass, followed by a prayer on his tomb in his birthplace of Khushpur (Punjab).
In the evening, there will be a torchlight procession and a prayer in Islamabad
where he was killed. On 6 March, also in the capital, we have a conference with
the participation of President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani, cabinet
ministers, foreign diplomats and important Christian, Muslim and Hindu religious
dignitaries, as well as representatives of other religious minorities. I can
confirm that the Muslim community will participate actively in celebrating Shabbaz.
is still a lot of confusion in the investigation.
that this act was the work of extremists and terrorist organisations. For
years, Shahbaz had been threatened by organisations that have complex
structures and professional killers hired to murder, who can terrorise judges
so that they will not convict them. Benazir Bhutto's assassination is also
unsolved and the real culprits are still at large. The issue is very complex,
but we continue to work for peace in Pakistan and the protection of the
do you have of your brother?
always remember his serenity and tolerance even after many disappointments and
acts of discrimination, his courage and determination, his tireless desire to
work and his incredible energy. More specifically, I remember that the Christian
faith was a source of strength and help in his mission. He had the capacity of
convincing even the more stubborn person. For this reason, we set up a
foundation that bears his name and carry on his ideals.
motivate the Shababz Bhatti Foundation?
to fight poverty, promote education and contribute to interfaith dialogue. For these
initiatives, we have the support of certain organisations and associations. A vocational
school bearing his name is in the works, so is a great university that will guarantee
minority students access to education. It will be an opportunity for
development and high-level education.
can advance only through education. This is one of our ideals and goals. We are
trying to launch Bangladesh-style micro-credits to help Christians and other
communities start up small businesses and promote self-employment. For this
reason, we call upon the international community to support our initiatives and
contribute to education and development, economic growth and interfaith
dialogue. We want to promote for man's dignity, and are asking for help from Christians
around the world.
a thought about Asia Bibi. Shabbaz died a "martyr" for defending her . . .
waiting for the appeal ruling. The sooner it comes, the better. In the past, we
have not been able to defend her, as we would have liked because of the
anti-Bibi campaign promoted by extremists who are responsible for my brother's
fate. For this reason, we have tried to defuse tensions working behind the
scene in order to arrive at a sentence at the best moment. Our hope is that she
will be released and expect all the protection the case deserves. Without too
much fanfare or show, we want to work in silence.