After meeting with the High Commissioner we set a memorial wreath with our eulogies before the embassy of Pakistan. Calling for peace and unity amongst all Pakistanis
Upkar Rai spoke of the need for better cooperation between all humanitarian agencies and the Government of Pakistan.
Wilson Chowdhry described his previous meetings with Shahbaz Bhatti and the determination the former Federal Minister displayed.
Alan Craig challenged the Government of Pakistan to make the necessary reforms required to bring peace to a divided nation.
John Bosco called for unity amongst Christians.
We gathered for a group shot outside the embassy before being shown in via the guest entrance.
The High Commissioner spoke passionately and with great sorrow.
Despite the larger than normal audience seats were set up for all visitors. We were treated with great care and respect.
Standing united we shared grief and a sense of hope with the nation of Pakistan
Upkar and I informed the High Commissioner that Shahbaz Bhatti gave much hope to minorities in Pakistan and that we believed the sacrifice he has made, will one day reap reward.
We remembered a man who is sure to become an eternal legend for Pakistan.
In a show of unity and calling for peace the British Pakistani Christian Association and British Sikh Council led a multi-faith delegation to the High Commission of Pakistan at 17:00 on Friday 4th January.
The vicious slaying of the late Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti has received united condemnation globally. International attention has now been drawn towards the extremist factions in Pakistan, who have made Pakistan an intolerant nation in which minority faiths outside the majority Islamic culture have been subjected to persecution and overt inequality.
A prayer vigil and worship service was held before meeting with His Excellency Wajid Shamshul Hasan, outside the Pakistan Embassy.
Worship was led by Hamad and Sally Bailey from Voice for Jesus using a mixture of Urdu and English Worship songs. This caught much public attention and allowed those involved in the vigil to thank God for the life and works of a Christian Martyr who sacrificed his life, campaigning against the injustices enacted upon the Christian and other minorities suffering in Pakistan. Hamad Bailey also san a solo song that he composed as eulogy for Minister Shahbaz Bhatti.
Invited groups sent leaders to speak on the situation of Pakistan as those in attendance remembered our lost hero and called for reform of the legislative and cultural factors that continue to make second class citizens of minorities in Pakistan. Speakers included:
Alex Chowdhry - Chairman of the BPCA
Alan Craig - Leader Christian Peoples Alliance
Upkar Rai - British Sikh Council
John Bosco - Christian Social Link
Clara Connolly - Women Against Fundamentalism
Pastor John Figueras - Potters House Christian Fellowship Romford
Wilson Chowdhry - Vice Chairman BPCA
Mr Shamsul Hasan met the group with extreme grace and spoke of his closeness to Shahbaz Bhatti, he informed the visitors of the closeness between Shahbaz Bhatti and former Leader of the PPP Party Benazir Bhutto another victim of extremists and great reformer. He noted emphasized that Minister Shahbaz Bhatti was a unique individual who represented the concerns of minorities with such grace, determination and vigour, and was concerned that it would take time to find a worthy replacement. Mr Shamshul Hasan confirmed however that elections would be held and they would find another Minister for Minorities to continue the challenge for equality. He expressed great sorrow and pain in the loss of Minister Shahbaz Bhatti and stated that he had become a National hero and would no doubt become a legend amongst the people of Pakistan. He informed us that a 3 day mourning period had been declared in Pakistan.
The group queried if the Government would continue the Equality movement with continued vigour despite the recent assassinations. The High Commissioner in a determined voice declared that the commitment from the Government was still as strong as ever. He reminded us that killings of this nature have been an unfortunate consequence of the Liberal stance that his party have suffered frequently, reminding us that it has not stopped his colleagues before and nor shall it in the future. The High Commissioner expressed sadness that they just cannot bring about the necessary institutional, constitutional and legislative changes they would like to immediately as it would magnify civil unrest in Pakistan. They would however continue their drive to bring this changes in a piecemeal and strategic fashion. He thanked the group for coming and several times confirmed that groups that show such love, unity and support are what provides the Government with hope and vigour to carry on. He also called for Christians and other faiths not to think of themselves as minorities but as equal citizens of Pakistan.
Wilson Chowdhry from the British Pakistani Christian Association said:
"British humanitarian groups mourn the loss of former Pakistan Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti a man who challenged for Peace and equality selflessly. In delivering the memorial wreaths to his Excellency Wajid Shamsul Hasan we wanted to express the support we offer to the Government of Pakistan in their time of need and to express our unity with them. One of Pakistan's most progressive statesman has been lost and we shall be praying for succour to his family and friends and know that the great work he has started will one day be brought to fruition."
Upkar Rai from the British Sikh Council said:
"His Highness Mr. Wajid Shamsul Hasan welcomed all gestures of commiseration upon the death of Pakistan Minister of minorities Mr Shahbaz Bhatti from the multi faith delegation lead by British Sikh Council UK and British Pakistani Christian Association. All were reassured of the gravity of the situation and positive discussions took place demonstrating the commitment of Pakistan Government's to pursue peace and equality for all. Finished with assertive words that there are no minorities in Pakistan but equal citizens. Quoting "We will have to go back to Quaid-e-Azam’s vision of Pakistan in order to sustain tolerance and respect for all segments of society and followers of different religions and sects and no law should be misused or abused by the people in any context".
Mr Shamshul Hasan spoke both eloquently and passionately and his caring manner was extremely endearing, all of his team made us all feel so welcome. This encouraged our group and in a post-event discussion a common theme was that participants believed that those in the UK Pakistani Embassy hold a heartfelt committeemen for reform. Men like former Governor Taseer and Minister Bhatti have shown that similar goodwill and an egalitarian spirit pervades throughout the existing Government.
A touching moment for me was when despite our differences in faith the High Commissioner and his team, and all the associated groups in our delegation held hands while Pastor John Figueras prayed for succour for the family of Minister Bhatti and a restoration of peace on Pakistan. Before leaving all the visitors signed the book of condolences for Minister Bhatti in the corridor of the Embassy.