Shahbaz Bhatti, failure and rebirth
Rome (AsiaNews) - March 2 next marks one year since the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's minister for minorities, riddled with 30 bullets by Tahrik-e-Taliban Pakistan extremists. Bhatti, a Catholic of 43, fought against the blasphemy law, its misuse and manipulation by some to eliminate minority groups, political opponents, economic competitors.
A few months before his tragic death he had travelled to see Asia Bibi, a Christian sentenced to death by the timid judges of Lahore court pending appeal. Over Asia Bibi's head hangs a bounty offered by radical imams, who want her death at all costs. Instead, death swept Shahbaz, who since his youth, was committed to a secular and democratic Pakistan, open to all faiths and ethnicities.
AsiaNews wants to honour his memory in the coming days by publishing the testimonies of some of those who knew him best, Christians and Muslims.
All who want to remember him call him a "martyr": first among them the Christians, bishops, priests with whom he collaborated. Even Muslim leaders, politicians, activists, journalists see in him a "martyr" for the future good of Pakistan.
From one point of view - like every "martyr" - the parable of Shahbaz seems one of failure. A year after his murder, the police have yet to arrest the culprits and for many months tried to divert investigations attributing this or that responsibility for his murder, even suggesting that the authors were Christian, interested Bhatti family properties.
Even the demands of international community, and what's more, Benedict XVI's prayer for him, have been scorned, while the country slips into insecurity and violence.
Yet, even the failures of a martyr are fertile. Over the course of this year - and we have documented this in the pages of AsiaNews - the Christian communities in Pakistan have become bolder and more vocal, demonstrating for Shahbaz Bhatti at his funeral, demanding justice, opposition to oppression, dispossession, denouncing the many episodes of blasphemy against Christians and other minorities.
The fecundity of the testimony of Shahbaz Pakistan goes beyond: it has become an inspiration for millions of people worldwide. Especially, what is termed his "last will" has become a touchstone for the efforts of many.
"I desire to serve Jesus as a simple man ... I do not want popularity, I do not want positions of power. I just want a place at the feet of Jesus I want my life, my character, my actions to speak for me and say that I am a follower of Jesus Christ. This desire is so strong in me that I would consider myself privileged if - in my effort and my battle to help the needy, the poor, the persecuted Christians of Pakistan - Jesus accepts the sacrifice of my life. I live for Christ and in Him I want to die".
We publish this once again, so that he, from heaven, may help our battle on earth and so that in this Lenten period, we may be cleansed of our ambivalence.