Visit our new British Pakistani Christians website

Visit our new British Pakistani Christians website
This site will no longer publish new material. Please join our new website

Monday, 4 March 2013

United Memorial service for Shahbaz Bhatti

Representatives from Pakistani churches across London joined together yesterday evening (Sunday 3rd March) at St Andrews Church, Ilford, to commemorate the 2nd Anniversary of the martyrdom of Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s only Federal Cabinet Government minister, who was gunned down by Islamic extremists outside his home on 2nd March 2011.  Ministers and pastors from a number of the churches spoke at the event organized by the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA)  to give eulogies to the assassinated Catholic campaigner against Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, including Shaheen Zar of the Ilford Asian Christian Fellowship and the Rev Wilson Gill of Emmanuel Church, Southall.

Other speakers included Andrew Stephenson, MP for Pendle, Mike Emberton of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Zoe Baldock from Open Doors, and Annabelle Benton of CSW, all of whom had either met, or known and worked with Shahbaz Bhatti.  Music was provided by Ooberfuse, joined by MC Wizard, aka BPCA’s chairman Wilson Chowdhry, along with local congregation musicians and singers, and a moving sung elegy by Nathanael Lewis, a BPCA trustee and researcher.  Mr Lewis also introduced the major academic report that the BPCA is launching in the House of Commons tomorrow (Tuesday 5th March), of which he was one of two main co-authors.  The 500 plus pages, fully referenced report covers the situation of just about every minority in Pakistan and is probably the most comprehensive report of its kind.  Mr Lewis said 

It will provide a valuable resource for politicians, journalists, human rights workers, people working in the area of asylum claims, and even asylum seekers themselves when researching their own claims.’

In addition, after a minutes silence for the recently deceased Cecil Choudhry, a Christian who was a Pakistani war hero, the service also heard a message from Bishop Shaw, Bishop Emeritus of Lahore, Pakistan, who spoke of the work of Mr Bhatti, the situation of Christian’s in Pakistan, and of the fact that now Pakistan’s media is now muddying the waters by trying to suggest that Mr Bhatti’s killers came from outside the country, not from within Pakistan. 

Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, was gunned down by extremists outside his home after repeated death threats for his consistent and principled stand for the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan, and for campaigning for the abolishing of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.  His assassination followed two months after the assassination of a Provincial Governor, Salman Taseer, by his own bodyguard, for similarly campaigning for the same cause. 

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws mandate the death sentence for anyone deemed to have spoken ill against the Muslim prophet Muhammed, and the standard of evidence is very low, nor is intent or lack of it a consideration. 

The service was part of a series of events by the BPCA, including protests and petitions at the Pakistani High Commission and 10 Downing Street followed by a three-hour multi-faith Peace Concert in Trafalgar Square on Sautrday 2nd March, a talk at University College London, Newman House, 111 Gower Street, WC1E 6AR, on the evening of Monday 4th March, hosted by the Catholic Society, and culminating in the launch of a major academic report about the targeting of all kinds of minorities in Pakistan at the House of Commons from 6-8pm on Tuesday 5th March, hosted by Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson.

Wilson Chowdhry of the BPCA said;

"The loss of men of honour and valour in tragic circumstances such as the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, create a desire for change. This year our series of 4 commemorative events and the launch of our new report is an attempt to garner support for change from people of good conscience, so that Mr Bhatti's vision of a fairer Pakistan may one day come to fruition.  We continue to pray for a more egalitarian Pakistan so that his ultimate sacrifice is not for nothing."

Shaheen Zar Chairman Ilford Asian Congregation said;

"Today a great man was remembered for his sacrifice for others.  We hope pray that the situation for Pakistani Christians improves as a consequence of his work."

No comments:

Post a Comment