Posted by: dowsmallgroups | 14/03/2012

In Memory of Shahbaz Bhatti

On Saturday 10th March Christians of many different traditions came together at Trafalgar Square for a concert calling for religious freedom in Pakistan – and to remember Shahbaz Bhatti who gave his life for the Catholic faith. Mr Bhatti, the then Federal Minister for Minority Affairs in Pakistan, was shot dead last year in March 2011 whilst travelling to work in Islamabad. As the cabinet’s only Christian minister, he had received death threats for urging reform to blasphemy laws.

At the event the youthful Catholic pop band Ooberfuse also performed their single ‘Blood Cries Out’ in memory of Shahbaz Bhatti at a three hour concert in Trafalgar Square. Ooberfuse, on their website, describe their vision as being ‘to infuse the increasingly moribund traditions of western pop with fresh vigour’. Have a listen!

The concert was followed by a presentation of a petition at 10 Downing Street calling for changes to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which people claim are being used at the whim of extremists to persecute Christians.

Tributes to Shahbaz Bhatti came from Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien, the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, and Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton, Chairman of the International Affairs Department of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and Fr.Tim Finigan, Parish Priest of Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen.

The Cardinal sent his blessing to the gathered assembly by saying said: “I add my voice to yours calling for real justice for Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan who have been accused of blasphemy..Shahbaz Bhatti was truly a witness, a martyr, and may we also have the courage to testify to what we believe in our own lives as he did.” Similarly Bishop Lang wrote: “Shahbaz Bhatti had a vision for a more tolerant society, formed by his own deep faith. His heroic witness serves as an inspiration and a challenge to us all.” Fr. Tim also said a few inspirational words in person to encourage the crowds who gathered.

Our Holy Father said recently on Mr Bhatti, “All too often, for various reasons the right to religious freedom remains limited or is flouted. I cannot raise this subject without first paying tribute to the memory of the Pakistani Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, whose untiring battle for the rights of minorities ended in his tragic death”.

Keep your eyes peeled for a couple more posts on religious freedom over the coming months.

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