Monday, 7 March 2011

Shahbaz Bhatti: "I Want to Serve Jesus"

Excerpt of Interview With Pakistani Minority Minister
VATICAN CITY, MARCH 6, 2011 - Here is an excerpt from the 2008 book-length interview with Shahbaz Bhatti, the Pakistani Federal Minister for Minorities who was assassinated last week.

The book is titled Christians in Pakistan or Where Hope Is Tested (Marcianum Press, 2008). In this excerpt, Bhatti reveals his motivations for being an outspoken advocate for religious freedom.

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I was offered high government positions and asked to quit my struggle but I always refused to give up even at the cost of my life. I said: "No, I want to serve Jesus as a common man". I am happy with this devotion. I do not want popularity; I do not want any position. I want just a place at Jesus' feet.

I want that my life, my character, my actions speak for me and indicate that I am following Jesus Christ. Because of this desire, I will consider myself even to be more fortunate if -in this effort and struggle to help the needy, the poor, to help the persecuted and victimized Christians of Pakistan - Jesus Christ will accept the sacrifice of my life. I want to live for Christ and I want to die for Him.

I do not feel any fear in this country. Many times the extremists wanted to kill me, many times they wanted to put me in prison, they threatened me, they harassed me and they terrorized my family. Even my parents, my mother and my father, were asked by the extremists few years ago to stop their son from continuing with his mission, this struggle to help the Christians and the needy. Otherwise they would have lost me. But my father always encouraged me. I said: "Until I live, until my last breath, I will continue to serve Jesus, to serve the poor humanity, the suffering humanity, the Christians, the needy, the poor".

I want to share that I am very much inspired by the Holy Bible and the life of Jesus Christ. The more I read the New and Old Testament, verses from the Holy Bible, the word of God, the more it gives me strength, determination. When I see that Jesus Christ sacrificed His everything and our Lord sent His Son for our redemption and salvation, I ask myself how I can follow that path of the Calvary. And our Lord said: "Come to me, hold your cross, and follow the path". The verses I like the most from the Holy Bible read: "I came to you when I was hungry, when I was thirsty, when I was imprisoned".

So when I see the poor people, I think Jesus might have come to me. Hence I always try to help, along with my colleagues, those in need, the hungry, the thirst.


Shahbaz Bhatti (9 September 1968 – 2 March 2011) was a Pakistani politician and elected member of the National Assembly from 2008. He was the first Federal Minister for Minorities from 2008 until his assassination on 2 March 2011 in Islamabad. Bhatti, a Roman Catholic, was an outspoken critic of Pakistan's blasphemy laws and the only Christian in the Cabinet. Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for his killing and called him a blasphemer of Muhammad.

Bhatti had been the recipient of death threats since 2009, when he spoke in support of Pakistani Christians attacked in the 2009 Gojra riots in Punjab Province. These threats increased following his support for Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian sentenced to death in 2010 for blasphemy. The United States had tried to obtain increased security for him and get him an armored car but was unsuccessful.]

According to the BBC, he was traveling to work through a residential district, having just left his mother's home, when his vehicle was sprayed with bullets. At the time of the attack he was alone, without any security. His driver reports having stopped the car and ducked when he saw armed men approaching rather than attempting to evade the threat. Bhatti was taken to a nearby hospital, but he was pronounced dead on arrival. The group Tehrik-i-Taliban told the BBC that they carried out the attack, because Bhatti was a "known blasphemer." A Roman Catholic who had criticized Pakistan's blasphemy law, his death follows that of Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who was also assassinated amid the controversy over the blasphemy law.

On the day following Bhatti's assassination, hundreds of Christian demonstrators reportedly took to the streets across Punjab, with protesters burning tires and demanding justice.