Thursday, 3 March 2011

Shahbaz Bhatti: martyr for the truth about man

This BBC report gives news of the reaction in Pakistan following the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, and, before his murder, the minister responsible for minority communities in Pakistan. The country is to observe three days of mourning. Mr Bhatti's killing follows shortly after that of Salman Taseer who, like Mr Bhatti, spoke out in opposition to Pakistan's blasphemy laws.
The response of the Holy See is reported here by ZENIT.
The Vatican statement concluded with a call to respect religious freedom: "Our prayers for the victim, our condemnation for this unspeakable act of violence, our closeness to Pakistani Christians who suffer hatred, are accompanied by an appeal that everyone may become aware of the urgent importance of defending both religious freedom and Christians who are subject to violence and persecution."
Aid to the Church in Need UK have condemned the attack, and called for greater respect for human rights and religious freedom.
Expressing outrage at the murder, Mr Kyrke-Smith asked: “How can the British government be planning to increase aid to the Pakistan government when religious freedom is not upheld and those who are against the infamous blasphemy laws are not protected and just gunned down?”
It is difficult to underestimate the political significance of Shahbaz Bhatti's murder, and not only in the context of Pakistan. This killing has implications for any situation where a violent interpretation of Islam has a presence, or a potential presence.

At a more theological level, I believe Mr Bhatti can be viewed as a martyr, as one who laid down his life in testimony to the truth about that highest freedom of mankind, his freedom in relation to religious faith. He is a martyr for the truth about the human preson in the same way as were Jerzy Popieluszko and Oscar Romero, but in a different type of context.

Further comment on the murder of Mr Bhatti can be found here (H/T to Fr Ray):
.... the distortion of religious values about which Pope Benedict alerted the world in his Regensberg address has arrived at its logical conclusion with these murders in Pakistan. How many more such murders will take place until honest Muslims in Pakistan and elsewhere and the world community at large take a stand against this evil and barbarous perversion of religion.
UPDATE: William Oddie writes about Mr Bhatti's killing on the Catholic Herald website: Shahbaz Bhatti was a hero of the Catholic faith, a martyr by whose courage we should be inspired. He links to this report by Orla Guerin on the BBC news site: Pakistan murder: Shahbaz Bhatti's 'goodbye' call. Orla Guerin's report describes the political, and indeed moral, implications of Mr Bhatti's killing.

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