The Christian minister assassinated in 2011 for fighting against Islamic extremism and violations of minority rights was commemorated throughout the country. “Today we are in great need of leadership like yours.” Human rights associations: “Not only have the laws against blasphemy not been repealed, but the number of unjustly accused has increased in recent years.”
Sahiwal () – Pakistani Christians commemorated the 12th anniversary of the death of martyr Shahbaz Bhatti, a federal minister assassinated on March 2, 2011 for speaking out against the abuse of blasphemy laws. On the occasion of the anniversary of his death, special prayers were offered in churches to invoke peace and solidarity in the country.
The Christian community of Sahiwal, a small town in Punjab, organized a peaceful demonstration and vigil to remember this great witness of the Pakistani Christian community. The participants chanted slogans for peace and harmony and called on the government to protect religious minorities and take concrete steps to end the abuse of blasphemy laws.
The event was attended by nuns, catechists, teachers and young Christians. The head of the local Catholic youth group, Ashknaz Khokhar, told those present: “Shahbaz Bhatti was a courageous leader who stood up against fundamentalism and extremism. He always bore witness to his Christian faith and worked to promote the values of peace. He believed that Christians could only improve their lives through healthy participation in the political process. We must carry on his legacy and continue to make our voices heard in favor of human rights and peace in the country”.
For her part, Sister Josephine Michael explained that “Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated because he raised his voice against the abuse of blasphemy laws and defended Asia Bibi, a Christian woman victim of those same laws. All the Catholic bishops have always admired her commitment and her efforts to improve the life of the Christian community. He always defended the rights not only of Christians, but of all marginalized groups. We really need leadership like yours today. But it is our responsibility to follow in their footsteps by helping those who are defenseless and defending their rights and dignity.”
In dialogue with , Naveed Walter, president of Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP), stated that Shahbaz Bhatti was a great defender of human rights. “The quota of 5% of the jobs and the representation of minorities in the Senate are some of the merits that must be attributed to it,” he recalls. Today, as we remember his efforts, we call on the government to end the culture of impunity and extremism fueled by blasphemy laws and to bring murderers and their collaborators to justice. Violence and victimization of minorities have increased with the abuse of discriminatory laws and practices. Twelve years after Bhatti’s murder, blasphemy laws have not been repealed and the number of people falsely accused has increased. The government should take serious steps to address these serious problems that not only affect Christians but also many Muslims.”