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    » 03/02/2012, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Shahbaz Bhatti, a witness for a nation where the minorities want equality, Mgr Coutts says



    The archbishop of Karachi celebrated a memorial Mass a year since the assassination of the Catholic minister. Thousands of people took place in a memorial service at his tomb, including Muslims, Hindus and members of other minorities. Great emotion and drive help Paul Bhatti continue Shahbaz's mission.

    Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti "is not dead," he "lives in Christ". His sacrifice embodies the desire of the nation, Pakistan, to see religious minorities fully enjoy the same rights and dignity, said Mgr Joseph Coutts as he remembered a year later the brutal assassination of the Catholic minister at the hands of Muslim extremists. The prelate was recently appointed archbishop of Karachi after many years as the bishop of Faisalabad.

    "At least 3,000 people" took part in ceremonies in Faisalabad and his home town of Khushpur, in Punjab, marking the Catholic minister's death, his brother Paul Bhatti said. The latter, who is currently the prime minister's special advisor on national harmony, spoke about the "incredible emotion" and "strong drive" he feels about carrying on Shahbaz's work.

    A good number of people from "various parts, including neighbouring villages, came," Paul Bhatti said. At the end of the ceremony, conducted by Mgr Coutts, who is the current president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan and a personal friend of Shahbaz Bhatti, there was an "exchange of greetings and wishes with a group of people that recited poems in my brother's honour."

    During the morning, "I experienced moments of intense emotion," the special adviser said. "People would get up and shout: 'Shahbaz is alive; he is not dead'. This is part of his legacy too."

    At the end of the Mass, the delegation travelled to the Catholic minister's burial for a joint prayer. "There were Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs," Paul Bhatti said. "At least 3,000 people took part in the ceremonies."

    He thought about the "initial moment" when he felt deep "sadness, disappointment, shock and anger", a year ago, when he heard about the murder. This gave way with the warmth around him to a feeling of "consolation and great honour" due "to the great love people still have for Shahbaz."

    After several months, Paul Bhatti said he understood that "Jesus wants me to continue in the path laid down by my brother."

    For this reason, he has promised to himself that he would continue to work on behalf of Pakistan's Christians and other minorities in the fields of education, economy, religious freedom and protection for the weakest, who are the victims of "discriminatory laws."

    "I see some light at the end of the tunnel," he noted. "I realise that people believe in this mission and I feel I can be useful."

    Shahbaz Bhatti was killed in the morning of 2 March 2011 on his way to work, his body riddled with 30 bullets.

    For months, the authorities tried to cover up the affair, blaming the murder on a family dispute and later, financial matters.

    So far, it is unclear who carried out the attacks, but few doubt Pakistani extremists were involved. Police acknowledge that they are still in the dark.

    Still, many in Pakistan want to keep Shahbaz Bhatti's memory alive, by promoting his work, ideals and political-cultural testament in favour of a secular and multicultural Pakistan as the Father of the Nation, Ali Jinnah, had envisaged it. (DS)

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    See also

    28/02/2012 PAKISTAN
    Paul Bhatti: minority social reawakening in the name of Shabbaz
    A year since the murder of Pakistan's Minority Affairs minister, his brother Paul talks about his legacy and work on behalf of Pakistani Christians. A new university and vocational school will open bearing his name. Masses and prayer vigils will be held on 2 March across Pakistan.

    02/09/2011 PAKISTAN
    Bhatti murder: focusing again on Islamic extremism
    Court issues arrest warrants for two Pakistani nationals who fled to Dubai. Pakistan plans to demand the extradition of Ziaur Rehman and Malik Abid, both from Faisalabad. Move closes the chapter on allegations that the murder was due to a family feud or intra-Christian disputes. Now police are back investigating circles close to the Taliban and Islamic fundamentalism.

    03/03/2012 PAKISTAN
    Pakistan Christians appeal to pope to make "Shahbaz Bhatti, a martyr of the Church"
    Masses are celebrated and prayer vigils held in various cities on the first anniversary of his death. In the capital, a torchlight procession reaches the scene of his murder by Muslim extremists. Paul Bhatti receives the APMA flag as an encouragement to continue Shahbaz's mission. Thanks to latter's work, four seats have been reserved for minorities in the upcoming senate elections.

    29/02/2012 PAKISTAN
    Archbishop Saldanha: Shahbaz Bhatti, an honest man and "martyr" for the rights of minorities
    Archbishop Emeritus of Lahore gives a personal reflection on the Catholic minister for minorities. The prelate emphasizes his "natural charisma" and his being different from the "corrupt politicians". His commitment was based "on the example of Christ" and he dedicated his life "to the redemption of the oppressed communities."

    11/02/2014 ITALY - PAKISTAN
    Despite threats, Paul Bhatti to continue brother's work for peace in Pakistan
    Threatened by the Taliban, the former Minister for National Harmony has renewed the message of Christian-Muslim harmony and coexistence. Almost three years after his brother Shahbaz's murder, he said that "his sacrifice» is increasingly "a seed for peace." He calls on the West and world Catholics for political and economic help to "give hope to the future."



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