Catholic politician in Pakistan murdered for criticizing blasphemy law

Last month I blogged about Shahbaz Bhatti, the Catholic politician in Pakistan who had been courageously speaking out against the anti-blasphemy laws in that country, even in the face of death threats. “I follow the principles of my conscience, and I am ready to die and sacrifice my life for the principles I believe,” he said at the time.

Horribly, maddeningly, that sacrifice has come to pass: Bhatti was murdered this morning in Islamabad.

[G]unmen opened fire on his car while travelling to work through a residential district.

Mr Bhatti, 42, a leader of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), had just left his home when at least two gunmen ambushed his car, police official Mohammad Iqbal said. He was rushed to the nearby Shifa hospital, but was dead on arrival. . . .

The first Christian to hold a cabinet post in Pakistan, Mr Bhatti spoke about the threat facing him last month, during a visit to Canada to raise awareness about his country’s blasphemy laws. He said: “I have been told by pro-Taliban religious extremists that if I will continue to speak against the blasphemy law, I will be beheaded.”

It’s so easy for us to take our own security and freedom for granted; that someone could expect to be murdered simply for speaking out against unjust laws is practically incomprehensible to us. Bhatti hoped his work would raise awareness about the blasphemy laws in Pakistan; if his death achieves any small part of that, he would not have thought his life lost in vain.

May he rest in peace — and one day may his prayers, and the prayers of so many other martyrs like him, win freedom and peace for those who suffer for the faith.

Photo: CNS

Margaret Cabaniss

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Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at SlowMama.com.

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