Pakistan: Catholic critic of blasphemy law shot dead

From the Catholic Herald.  Say a prayer for the repose of the soul of Shahbaz Bhatti.

Catholic critic of blasphemy law is shot dead in Pakistan

By Ed West

Pakistan’s leading Catholic politician has been murdered in the capital Islamabad.

Minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti died this morning after gunmen 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.

Mr Bhatti had received numerous death threats after calling for changes to the country’s controversial blasphemy law. The blasphemy law carries a death sentence for anyone who insults Islam, and critics say it has been used to persecute minority faiths. In January, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who had also opposed the law, was murdered by one of his bodyguards.

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.”

However, he said: “As a Christian, I believe Jesus is my strength. He has given me a power and wisdom and motivation to serve suffering humanity. I follow the principles of my conscience, and I am ready to die and sacrifice my life for the principles I believe.”

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but leaflets issued by Tehrik-i-Taliban Punjab, a branch of the Taliban in Pakistan’s most populous province, were found at the ambush site, according to the private TV channel Express 24/7.

A government spokesman condemned the assassination. Farahnaz Ispahani, an aide to President Asif Ali Zardari, said: “This is concerted campaign to slaughter every liberal, progressive and humanist voice in Pakistan.

“The time has come for the federal government and provincial governments to speak out and to take a strong stand against these murderers to save the very essence of Pakistan.”

John Pontifex of Aid to the Church in Need said this morning: “I had the pleasure of meeting Shahbaz Bhatti on a trip to Pakistan with Aid to the Church in Need a few years ago. He was a very kind and thoughtful guide to the region with a deep commitment to improving the lot of the disadvantaged, especially those suffering persecution and oppression on account of their faith.

“Shahbaz Bhatti had the courage to speak out against the suffering that has its root in the country’s blasphemy laws, and we at ACN will be praying for his soul following his murder.

“Despite having received death threats for his stance Mr Bhatti continued to stand up heroically for Christians and other religious minorities who have been victims of mob violence after they were accused of blasphemy.”

Damian Thompson has a piece today entitled: Pakistan’s only Christian minister killed. Copts massacred. Afghan convert sentenced to death. When will Britain wake up to Islam’s persecution of Christians?

Saints Nunilo and Alodia, pray for us.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. JPManning says:

    So he’s a Martyr right? Do Martyrs still have to go through the full canonisation process?

  2. JPManning: If he was killed because of hatred of Christ, the Christian religion, or some inseparable dimension of Christianity, then, yes, he would be a martyr.

    That said, there is still an exacting canonical process to determine whether or not he was martyred, or simply murdered.

  3. Either way, it’s pretty certain that he died in service to the Lord and to his country. If many of his countrymen didn’t appreciate his service, it’s certain that the good Lord does. There are many less Christ-like ways to meet death than as a suffering servant.

  4. irishgirl says:

    I heard about this on the radio yesterday-terrible!
    May he rest in peace!

  5. tonyballioni says:

    Father, does the process to determine if he is a martyr require a 5 year waiting period after his death before it can begin like for confessors?

  6. doanli says:

    Prayers being said. (For him, his family, and all of our fellow Christian brothers and sisters who are persecuted in their countries. And for conversions for the enemies of our Holy Faith.)

    God have mercy on us.

  7. Jordanes says:

    Though the Church rightly will investigate this case before formally declaring him a sainted martyr, popular acclamation is likely to preempt the formal canonisation process. Considering the circumstances there seems little reason to doubt that he was killed specifically due to hatred of his Catholic faith, so I’m inclined to think he’s in a better position to pray for us than we for him.

  8. Jenny bag of donuts says:

    May he rest in peace, poor thing.

    He’s an unofficial martyr as far as I’m concerned. But I think the his life and piety would have to be examined for him to be formally canonized, right?

  9. samgr says:

    Here’s what Bhatti said in a recent TV interview, as quoted in the NY Times: “…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’m following … the cross. I’m ready to die for a cause. I’m living for my community and suffering people and I will die to defend their rights. So these threats and these warnings cannot change my opinion and principles. I will prefer to die for my principles and for the justice of my community rather to compromise.”

  10. The Astronomer says:

    “In pamphlets found at the scene of the shooting, al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban said they targeted Mr. Bhatti because of his faith and because he allegedly belonged to a committee that was reviewing the blasphemy laws. The pamphlets, issued by ‘Tanzim Al Qaida Tehrik Taliban Punjab’, said any one who insulted the Prophet Mohammed would be given the death sentence.”

    Seems fairly obvious he was killed in odium fidei, i.e. hatred of the Faith. Don’t know what further evidence of martyrdom would be required when Al Qaeda leaves pamphlets at the scene. I know, I know, there’s a fine line between being killed for specifically being a Catholic and for allegedly ‘insulting the prophet.’ Somehow I tend to think that the Lord Jesus embraced this man’s soul and told him “well done my good and faithful servant.”

    Holy Martyrs of the Church, Pray for us and give us strength!!!!

  11. Jack Hughes says:

    Faith of our Fathers Holy Faith, we will be true to thee till death, we will be true to thee till death

  12. AvantiBev says:

    Whether the brave man was murdered or martyred, does not interest me as much as the fact that I so often meet Catholics who don’t understand the world war called “jihad”. They live in some kind of kumbaya fantasy world or are too interested in Charlie Sheen’s latest meltdown or some celeb being busted for drunk driving to READ the real news available to them on the web from intrepid bloggers from Indonesia, Pakistan, Turkey, Britain and all parts of the Islamic ummah. The caliphate is rising once again. Read Robert Spencer, Serge Trifkovic, Nonie Darwish, Ibn Warraq, Andrew McCarthy, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and all the other wise ones banned from mention in the lamestream media. Keep your ears open, eyes peeled and your powder dry.

    It is NOT Christian to commit cultural suicide no matter how much 40 years of kumbaya phoney baloney, ecumania has been tried in our churches. Ask not for whom the bell tolls. Today it is for Mr. Bhatti and the two American airmen gunned down in a Frankfurt airport. Tomorrow, it is you. Islam does not mean peace; it means “submission”. Better one day lived as a child of God than a 1000 as a slave of allah. Do not SUBMIT in thought, word or deed.

  13. Dr. Eric says:

    I have a question. Do martyrs need our prayers? I had heard that martyrs went immediately to Heaven due to the suffering for the Holy Faith.

    I would definitely think that Shahbaz Bhatti was killed for being a Catholic.

  14. Supertradmum says:

    Shahbaz Bhatti, pray for us stupid and blind people, who cannot see the Truth in front of us. God bless your family.

    Thompson’s article is great. Where are the brave politicians to speak out on the persecution of Christians? Our potus has said zero on this. I, for one, do not look good in a burqa. Islam has always had one goal-global hegemony. And, why no outcry today about the hate speech of the Nation of Islam leader against the Jews?

    How odd the liberals are about true religions. The American airmen killed today were killed by someone shouting Allah Akbar before shouting and authorities are trying to decide whether it was a terrorist attack. Really?

  15. digdigby says:

    I have yet to hear a plausible explanation why my Church does not bravely and without apology deliver the message of Jesus Christ and God’s love to the Muslims. For all the nightmarish liturgical debasements of the last 40 years, nothing comes close to shaming me as does this blatant refusal to follow the SPECIFIC instructions to preach the Gospel of Salvation and the Good News of God’s love to ALL nations. Every human being on earth must hear the undiluted message of Truth or the Church is in spiritual danger far worse then the danger of those living in Pakistan etc. who will bear the brunt of Muslim rage and be martyred. At least THEY will probably go to heaven and not hell.

  16. Supertradmum says:


    If you look at a list of all the Christians and especially Catholics killed in the past twenty years in Muslim countries, you will see all the martyrs who were preaching to the Muslims. The number of converts will never be known, but the example of those murdered do bring more grace upon the earth.

    The Muslims have access to Catholic teaching, just as we have access to Islamic teaching. There are thousands of Catholics who live in the Holy Land and the surrounding countries. Do you not think that the priests there not spread the Word of God? Look at the list here, which is an incomplete list.

    I do not think we are timid in sharing the Gospel. If anyone is, then, it is their duty to change. As you rightly state, we need to share the Truth, but as St. Francis stated, “Preach the Gospel, and if you must, use words.” Here is great conversion story:

    And, I meant to write “shooting” above, obviously.

  17. muckemdanno says:

    I think we should stop blaming one side or the other, forget the past, invite the Muslims into our Catholic Churches, especially our great shrines, and pray together with them as equals, since, according to Vatican 2, which no one here could dare deny, since they’d be denying an Ecumenical Council of the Church:

    “The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting…Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past…” – Vatican Council 2, Nostra Aetate #3

  18. Jenny bag of donuts says:

    Good clarification Dr. Eric.

  19. digdigby says:

    These sublime Catholic martyrs are specifically instructed NOT to preach in Algeria, Somalia and other places where they have been murdered. There only witness is the beauty of their souls as revealed in their loving actions as nurses and such. In Pakistan, for instance, evangelicals secretly convert Moslems but the Catholic church carefully follows the Islamic Sharia law and tries to ‘cooperate’ with them to be allowed to ‘exist’, distancing themselves from non-Catholics who tell Moslems the truth. Over one and a half billion Moslems consciously kept in ignorance of the message of Jesus Christ by the collusion of the Catholic Church with ‘Islamic Sensitivities’.

  20. Supertradmum says:

    How can anyone anywhere with a phone or a laptop be in ignorance, unless the governments stop the Internet? This is happening today in India, but it seems, from the revolts in the Arab nations, that most of the young have ways and means to read about Christianity, and specifically, Catholicism online. If they can twitter each other and revolt, they can read any website. There are also radio stations which broadcast the Christian message. I am sure that most of the numbers of Moslems to which you have referred can hear about Christ from somewhere. This does not mean we should not be missionaries, or sending out missionaries. Pray for vocations.

  21. digdigby says:

    Sts. Peter and Paul did not have anonymous blogs with cute names. Nor did they have a radio show from safely across some border. Moslems are getting a flood of pornography, grossest of gross materialism, violence, and pornography as well as did I mention…pornography with some ‘Christianity’ mixed in there somewhere. The Medium is the Message as a Catholic, Marshal McLuhan once said. Virtual reality is NOT Christian witness and there is no stretch of the imagination that can conclude that the world’s people have ‘received the Gospel’.

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