Scotland's top Catholic prelate has paid a moving tribute to Pakistan politician and human rights campaigner Shahbaz Bhatti who was murdered last year.
Mr Bhatti, Pakistan’s first federal minister for minority affairs, was shot dead while travelling to work in Islamabad. He was targeted after he opposed Pakistan's blasphemy laws.
Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien, the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, paid tribute to Mr Bhatti in a message which will be read out at a peace concert and rally in London on Saturday 10th March, commemorating the first anniversary of Mr Bhatti’s death.
The cardinal praised Mr Bhatti’s human rights work and drew attention to the Pope’s admiration for his commitment to social justice.
He said: “Shahbaz Bhatti was a truly remarkable hero whose legacy must live on in our own lives.
“The call of religious freedom was one he made his own and anyone who cares about the dignity of the human person will listen to his words.”
The only Christian in the cabinet, Mr Bhatti was an outspoken critic of Pakistan's blasphemy laws. He was killed after campaigning on behalf of Asia Bibi, Pakistan’s first woman to be sentenced to death under the blasphemy laws.
In the last interview made before his death, the Catholic said: “I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ, who has given his own life for us. I know what is the meaning of [the] cross, and I am following the cross, and I am ready to die for a cause.”
Reflecting on Mr Bhatti's words, Cardinal O’Brien said: “His witness is a remarkable one that has lessons for us all.
Cardinal O’Brien has spoken out frequently in defence of religious freedom, drawing on his travels to many parts of the world where Christians are oppressed and persecuted.
The 10th March peace rally and concert commemorating the life and work of Mr Bhatti – where the cardinal’s statement will be read out – will call for changes to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which impose sentences including execution and life imprisonment for offences against Islam.
The peace rally, organised by the British Pakistani Christian Association in conjunction Aid to the Church in Need and others, will start at 11am with a protest outside the Pakistan High Commission, Lowndes Square, London.
Following the submission of a petition to 10 Downing Street at 2pm there will be a concert in Trafalgar Square starting at 3pm.
February 28th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Sam Hailes