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London memorial services for slain Pakistani leader: The Church of England Newspaper, April 1, 2011 p 7. April 5, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan.

Shahbaz Bhatti

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Memorial services for slain Pakistani government minister Shahbaz Bhatti were held last week in London.

On March 16, the Pakistan High Commission hosted a memorial service for the slain Minorities Minister, who was murdered on March 2 after calling for the reform of the country’s blasphemy laws.

Mr. Bhatti, a 42 year old Roman Catholic, was leaving his home when a gunman sprayed his car with 20 bullets.  He died while being transported to the Shifa Hospital in Islamabad.  The government minister was usually accompanied by security guards, but he had told them that day not to accompany him.  The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the murder.

At the March 16 memorial service, the High Commissioner of Pakistan in London, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, told mourners he hoped his country would recover the vision of its founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and fight for a non-discriminatory Pakistan.

The former Bishop of Rochester, the Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir Ali, who led the Christian prayers for the service said Pakistan’s blasphemy laws had been abused and misused.  While Pakistan needed laws to prevent incitement to religious hatred that lead to violence or discrimination, the punishment for such a law should be commensurate with the seriousness of the crime, Bishop Nazir Ali said.

The murder of Mr. Bhatti, the chairman of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, underscored the need for interfaith dialogue on how Christians and Muslim could live in justice and harmony in Pakistan, Bishop Nazir Ali said.

On March 17, St Margaret’s, Westminster held a memorial service attended by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop Alexander Malik of Lahore, and the former Bishop of Peshawar Mano Ramulshah.

“Shahbaz knew the meaning of the cross which he followed all the way, to his last breath. But he also knew that the cross is not the end. He knew the power of Christ’s resurrection,” Bishop Tony Robinson of Pontefract told the congregation.

During the service, a recording made by the late government minister was played to the congregation. “When I’m leading this campaign against the Shariah laws and for the abolishment of the blasphemy law and speaking for the oppressed and for the persecuted Christians and other minorities, these Taliban threaten me,” he said.

“I’m ready to die for a cause. I’m living for my community and suffering people and I will die to defend their rights. So these threats and these warnings cannot change my opinion and principles. I will prefer to die for my principles and for the justice of my community rather to compromise,” Mr. Bhatti said.

“Our tribute to Shahbaz will be to follow his love of truth and justice,” Bishop Robinson said, and not be “limited by fear in the face of adversity and persecution.”

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