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» 03/02/2012
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
02/28/2012 PAKISTAN
Paul Bhatti: minority social reawakening in the name of Shabbaz
by Dario Salvi
09/02/2011 PAKISTAN
Bhatti murder: focusing again on Islamic extremism
by Jibran Khan
03/03/2012 PAKISTAN
Pakistan Christians appeal to pope to make "Shahbaz Bhatti, a martyr of the Church"
by Jibran Khan - Shafique Khokhar
02/29/2012 PAKISTAN
Archbishop Saldanha: Shahbaz Bhatti, an honest man and "martyr" for the rights of minorities
by Lawrence J. Saldanha *
02/11/2014 ITALY - PAKISTAN
Despite threats, Paul Bhatti to continue brother's work for peace in Pakistan

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
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