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Cardinal O'Brien pays tribute to Pakistan's 'truly remarkable hero'

Cardinal Keith O'Brien

Cardinal Keith O'Brien

Scotland's top Catholic prelate has paid a moving tribute to murdered Pakistan politician and human rights campaigner Shahbaz Bhatti – calling on people to take up his cause in defence of religious freedom.

Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, made the comments in a message which will be read out at a peace concert and rally in London on Saturday 10 March, commemorating the first anniversary of Mr Bhatti’s death.

In his message the Cardinal praised Mr Bhatti’s human rights work and drew attention to the Pope’s admiration for his commitment to social justice.

He said: “Shahbaz Bhatti was a truly remarkable hero whose legacy must live on in our own lives.“The call of religious freedom was one he made his own and anyone who cares about the dignity of the human person will listen to his words.”

He added: “Pope Benedict XVI has paid tribute to what he described as Shahbaz Bhatti’s ‘untiring battle for the rights of minorities [that] ended in his tragic death’.”

Mr Bhatti, Pakistan’s first federal minister for minority affairs, was shot dead while travelling to work in Islamabad.The cabinet-rank politician and Catholic was killed after campaigning on behalf of Asia Bibi, Pakistan’s first woman to be sentenced to death under the blasphemy laws.

In his message, the Cardinal drew attention to the last interview Mr Bhatti made before his death, in which he spoke of the death threats he had received for campaigning against the blasphemy laws and about his own faith.Mr Bhatti said: “I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ, who has given his own life for us. I know what is the meaning of [the] cross, and I am following the cross, and I am ready to die for a cause.”

Reflecting on his words, Cardinal O’Brien said: “His witness is aremarkable one that has lessons for us all. First of all, he embraces the cross – the centre of the Christian Faith – and he was faithful to the example of Jesus Christ, following in his steps.

“Secondly he is prepared to live out that faith, standing up not just for the Christian community but for all religious minorities who experience persecution on the pretext of blasphemy.”

Cardinal O’Brien has spoken out frequently in defence of religious freedom, drawing on his travels to many parts of the world whereChristians are oppressed and persecuted.

He highlighted the plight of Christians in Pakistan at the March 2011 launch of Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith, produced by Aid to the Church in Need.

The 10 March peace rally and concert commemorating the life and work of Mr Bhatti – where the Cardinal’s statement will be read out – will call for changes to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which impose sentences including execution and life imprisonment for offences against Islam.

The peace rally, organised by the British Pakistani Christian Association in conjunction Aid to the Church in Need and others, will start at 11am with a protest outside the Pakistan High Commission, Lowndes Square, London. Following the submission of a petition to 10 Downing Street at 2pm there will be a concert in Trafalgar Square starting at 3pm.

Find out about the peace rally and concert here:


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