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Catholic critic of blasphemy law is shot dead in Pakistan

By on Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Shahbaz Bhatti pictured at the US bishops' conference headquarters in Washington (Photo: CNS)

Shahbaz Bhatti pictured at the US bishops' conference headquarters in Washington (Photo: CNS)

Pakistan’s leading Catholic politician has been murdered in the capital Islamabad.

Minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti died this morning after gunmen opened fire on his car while travelling to work through a residential district.

Mr Bhatti, 42, a leader of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), had just left his home when at least two gunmen ambushed his car, police official Mohammad Iqbal said. He was rushed to the nearby Shifa hospital, but was dead on arrival.

Mr Bhatti had received numerous death threats after calling for changes to the country’s controversial blasphemy law. The blasphemy law carries a death sentence for anyone who insults Islam, and critics say it has been used to persecute minority faiths. In January, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who had also opposed the law, was murdered by one of his bodyguards.

The first Christian to hold a cabinet post in Pakistan, Mr Bhatti spoke about the threat facing him last month, during a visit to Canada to raise awareness about his country’s blasphemy laws. He said: “I have been told by pro-Taliban religious extremists that if I will continue to speak against the blasphemy law, I will be beheaded.”

However, he said: “As a Christian, I believe Jesus is my strength. He has given me a power and wisdom and motivation to serve suffering humanity. I follow the principles of my conscience, and I am ready to die and sacrifice my life for the principles I believe.”

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but leaflets issued by Tehrik-i-Taliban Punjab, a branch of the Taliban in Pakistan’s most populous province, were found at the ambush site, according to the private TV channel Express 24/7.

A government spokesman condemned the assassination. Farahnaz Ispahani, an aide to President Asif Ali Zardari, said: “This is concerted campaign to slaughter every liberal, progressive and humanist voice in Pakistan.

“The time has come for the federal government and provincial governments to speak out and to take a strong stand against these murderers to save the very essence of Pakistan.”

John Pontifex of Aid to the Church in Need said this morning: “I had the pleasure of meeting Shahbaz Bhatti on a trip to Pakistan with Aid to the Church in Need a few years ago. He was a very kind and thoughtful guide to the region with a deep commitment to improving the lot of the disadvantaged, especially those suffering persecution and oppression on account of their faith.

“Shahbaz Bhatti had the courage to speak out against the suffering that has its root in the country’s blasphemy laws, and we at ACN will be praying for his soul following his murder.

“Despite having received death threats for his stance Mr Bhatti continued to stand up heroically for Christians and other religious minorities who have been victims of mob violence after they were accused of blasphemy.”

  • Auricularis

    How long O Lord?

  • Fr. JP

    Until the end of the world.

  • The Moz

    My heart goes out to his family and to all the persecuted Christians in Pakistan.

  • brencel

    He left a prerecorded video for the BBC stating that he would be assinated for his opposition to the blasphemy laws. A true martyr and hero for the faith. God is blessing him now.

  • Wal004

    What have the president Ovama, or the Catholic Bishops have done for the defense of the Human right, of freedom of Religion, in the Muslim world ? Are the US trops defending oil only ? The People of the Middle East are demanding freedom, no the freedom as underestood by the French revolution, but as the freedom underestood by the writers of the US constitution, written not only for europeans, but for human the person as such.

  • wfwildrick

    My prayers go out for the soul of another Christian martyr in the Middle East and the family left behind

  • Joseph

    Real witness..and a HERO..We proudly love you

  • Cathal Loftus

    What a role model!

  • Jaybird

    This only goes to show that Muslims fear the truth and will stop at nothing to snuff it out. Modern day Herods is what they are. For being such a small minority in the Middle East they sure do fear us. Keep praying!!

  • Jshelton

    Once again, we see a pattern emerging in “the peace-loving religion”.

  • Eliabeth Boyd

    May flights of Angels lead him on his way / To paradise and Heaven’s eternal day.

    Bahtti lived and moved and had his being in Christ. If only all of us would live our faith with such courage and joy.

  • Critique

    A true defender of justice! Pakistan extremists should be ashamed of this coward act!

  • Mary Karuga

    Eternal rest grant unto him oh Lord, let perpetual light shine upon him, may he rest in peace Amen. You fought the good fight, you have finished the race..RIP. May Yaahweh be with the Christians in Pakistan..Amen

  • Mary Karuga

    Our Father in heaven is not late He is always on time. PLease God remember all the Christians in the arab world..encourage and strengthen Jesus MIghty name Amen!

  • Leonard

    The USA and all other Civilized Nations providing financial aid and military support to the Pakistanis should demand and international investigation into this “symbolic act of terrorism” and crime against humanity. The perpetrators must be given up to an international court and justice system or all aid and assistance to the Pakistani regime should halt immediately. An iternational peace keeping force should be assembled and sent into Pakistan to protect vulnerable minorities from genocide from the inhuman and murderous extremist cults that populate that country.

  • Fredericorimaldi

    So, we are to believe that Islam is a religion of peace? I think not. These nations have acted in this irrational way for millenia, and will continue to do so until God intervenes.
    May God and His Holy angels bring this true martyer to his reward of everlasting life, and bring peace to his family.

  • Anonymous

    1 John 2:22
    2 Corinthinians 6:14-18

  • Jhammer

    Grant him eternal rest, may God’s perpetual light shine on him; may he rest in peace

  • A.A. JOSE

    This is nothing but the crusification of a saint-like person and true follower of Almighty God. May his soul rest in peace. Let us pray that the Lord may give the courage and strength to the family, relations and friends of Mr.Bhatti to bear this great loss to them. This gruesome murder calls for outright condemnation from all right thinking people. It is high time for the entire world community and leaders to call upon the rulers in Pakistan to bring those criminals who committed this heinous crime to face harsh consequences of their inhuman act.

  • Dcruz

    The extremist justify the killing for a reward of a place in heaven for the murder of an infidel. This is called purity for them and part of the religion of peace and the fastest growing religion which is superior to all.

  • Truthteller

    The ideology of Mohammedanism – for that is what it is, an ideology – is intrinsically and mortally antipathetic to any religion of any type. All the talk of ‘people of the Book’ is utterly specious. Islam seeks the subjugation of all who are not Mohammedans. Islam does not seek equality. Islam does not seek parity of dignity. Islam does not seek peace. Read the Koran to undestand what Islam seeks – ‘and the tree shall cry out “oh, Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him” – some declaration of love and respect and peace! Muslims live among us but do not wish truly to be part of ours society, except it be on their terms. They live on us – they are the economic beneficiaries of our taxes – but they do not contribute in nett terms to the economic commonwealth. They will take all that is to be had but their ideology means it is such that they will willingly justify killing us if it is to their advantage.