11/15/2011, 00.00
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Paul Bhatti: rights for Christians and dialogue with Muslims, in the footsteps of Shahbaz

by Dario Salvi
The Special Adviser to the Prime Minister warns that provoking extremism is not the right way to solve the problems of Christians. He promotes a policy of dialogue, capable of restoring "unity" to civil society and the country. The international community's support and the meeting with the leaders of the Islamic world. Faith in Christ, to follow in the footsteps of his brother’s vocation.
Rome (AsiaNews) – Fomenting Islamic extremism "is not helpful to the cause of Christians" in Pakistan, and because of this, "I have embarked on a path faithful to my ideals and sentiments", with the aim of solving the root cause of problems, in contrast to the basic "social economic and educational exclusion, " of minorities. This is what Paul Bhatti brother of the Minister for Minorities Shahbaz, killed by Islamic extremists on March 2 last year tells AsiaNews. Today Paul, who formerly worked as a doctor in Italy, is Special Advisor to the Prime Minister for religious minorities - a role that President Zardari wanted to leave "only to a Bhatti family member " - and in this capacity, he wanted to promote an approach of dialogue with the Muslim majority in the footsteps of Shahbaz: "We have changed tactics - says Paul – with respect to a past of deaths, killing and violence, without solutions or proposals." This decision had raised criticisms and concerns among Christian leaders, but the first results have begun to emerge on the front of interreligious dialogue.

The Special Advisor to Prime Minister Gilani rejects what he calls "the misconception" that the executive "is not doing anything" to uplift the condition of minorities in the country, victims of persecution and violence. "I the work of my brother followed closely, and helped from an economic point of view - says Paul Bhatti - and when I saw the legacy that he left after his death, the struggle in defence of the marginalized and oppressed, I realized that it would was an enormous sin to waste the work of years. " He does not spare a warning to all who have supported Shahbaz for "personal benefit" and those who, once promoted to positions of power, "enriched themselves, building houses, while he - Paul emphasizes - lived in a rented house which, today, I am still paying for. " For two and a half years Shahbaz Bhatti, held the only portfolio in the recent history for minorities in Pakistan, with his role as federal minister, but his work in favour of non-Muslims "continued for 28 years as a free man, a party leader, without seeking recognition or economic or institutional rewards. "

Speaking of his work and relationships with moderate Muslims, Bhatti (pictured with Benedict XVI and the Imam of Lahore) points out that despite "some regrets" he has "great hopes that we can achieve the goals we have set ourselves ". He explains that there are four points to the program for the development of minorities: access to education and employment for all to improve economic well-being; interreligious dialogue and interaction among minorities, in anticipation of inclusion in the Muslim-majority society; protection and legal assistance to victims of discrimination.

In these days, the special adviser is in Italy, after having participated in conferences in Europe and met with government leaders, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has renewed "condolences for Shahbaz’s death " on behalf of the executive German and expressed support for his work: "always count on us," this is what Merkel told Paul Bhatti. In the coming days he will return to Pakistan, to promote an effort that is beginning to bear fruit, as shown by a recent episode: "in Gujranwala, Punjab, a Christian community - he says – was accused of blasphemy for the burning of a Koran. I went in person to verify the situation and, through dialogue with local Muslim leaders, it was discovered that the author of the gesture was a Muslim. This is also a sign of change. "

Interreligious dialogue is also further developed abroad, through a series of meetings with Muslim leaders in Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, during which - he adds - a fixed point has emerged: extremism is always to be condemned, because killing in the name of faith is wrong. A message that he wants to "bring even within Pakistani society." Certain regrets, however, are derived from the realization that the battle of Shahbaz Bhatti for minorities in Pakistan "has been a lonely struggle" and did not even have strong support among Christian leaders. Pakistani politics is marked by corruption and infighting for power, prestige and wealth, even within government offices and institutions. On the contrary, Paul Bhatti claims the principle of "unity among Christians and Pakistani nationals", as the only way for the redemption of minorities and the emergence of a society that knows how to achieve the objectives of peace, personal freedom and multiculturalism.

To continue the work begun by his brother Shahbaz, the counsellor for Minorities entrusts himself to Christ: "Without my faith - Paul tells AsiaNews - I would not even started out on this path." The Bhatti family, is permeated by the Catholic faith, a simple yet profoundly rooted faith in all five brothers through their parents teaching. "We prayed the rosary every night - he adds - and we went to Mass at least four times a week. I studied in a college of monks, and this allowed me to grow up looking to Christ. " However, concludes Paul Bhatti, Shahbaz’s faith "was much stronger and even more solid than mine, he prayed a lot and lived his life with a total dedication to his vocation."

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