Memorial Masses and events have been taking place in Pakistan this week to mark the anniversary of the assasination of Shahbaz Bhatti, in Islamabad on March 2, 2011. The Christian politician dedicated his life to defending the rights of minority groups. He was one of the politicians who campaigned to free Asia Bibi from prison.
His brother Paul said: "Shahbaz Bhatti was an authentic patriot, a true son of Pakistan. His memory honours our country... He gave his life to promote a Pakistan where law, justice, freedom and equality were principles to be respected and lived... We remember him today as a victim of violence and terrorism. But his testimony will not fall on deaf ears and will not cease: many people are ready to continue his campaign for justice, peace and coexistence."
Paul Bhatti is head of the Mission Shahbaz Foundation which promotes development projects, and president of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), continuing the work of his late brother.
In Islamabad, near the site where Shahbaz Bhatti was killed, a gathering of Christian leaders, Muslims, representatives of civil society and politics, diplomats, gathered by APMA, was held to remember Bhatti's commitment for the poor, the oppressed, for the rights and protection of religious minorities, and for the contribution that Shahbaz made to the nation.
On 4 March March a solemn commemoration will be held in Kushpur, the home village of Shahbaz Bhatti. On a family plot that houses a museum dedicated to him and where a mausoleum will be erected in his name, more than two thousand people from many parts of Pakistan are expected to gather to remember the human and spiritual heritage that Shahabz left.
The Bishop of Faisalabad, Mgr Indrias Rehmat; Ijaz Alam Augustine, Provincial Minister for Human Rights and Minorities and Minister of Interreligious Dialogue in Punjab; Paul Bhatti, numerous Christian faithful and several Islamic religious leaders who appreciated the work of Shahbaz and his "passion for humanity" will be present.
"We will remember his life and works. He was an angel for Pakistan, a gift of God to the nation", said Fr Emmanuel Parvez, parish priest in the diocese of Faisalabad, his first cousin and spiritual confidant.
Joseph Paul, teacher and lay Catholic, Shahbaz' friend said: "Shahbaz is our hero and he is our martyr. His great sacrifice still bears fruit of justice and blessing to Pakistan. We must be united in remembering him. He gave his life and this is an indelible sign that remains in the history of all of us in Kushpur, with so many people in Pakistan, we hope that the Church will soon officially recognize his martyrdom."
In March 2016, five years after his death, the cause for beatification of Shahbaz Bhatti was formally opened by the Catholic Diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, making him a Servant of God within the Catholic Church.
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