In March of 2011 Shahbaz Bhatti, a Pakistani politician and the country’s first Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs was assassinated in Islamabad for his struggle to promote human equality, social justice and interfaith harmony in Pakistan. Inspired by the thought and vision of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Association “Missione Shahbaz Bhatti was founded. The aim of the association is to continue the tireless work of this politician to create a society where everyone can live with dignity and respect.
Seven years on from Shahbaz Bhatti’s death, the association was received in audience by Pope Francis in the Vatican on Friday. Included in the group was Paul Bhatti who paid homage to his brother in a speech to the Pope. In his words to those gathered, Pope Francis said he was glad to know “that Shahbaz Bhatti is loved and honoured by many in Pakistan today, and that his sacrifice is bearing rich fruits of hope.”
He continued by saying that, “one fruit of the sufferings endured by Christians is the growth of groups and associations – like your own – that build bridges of fraternity throughout the world, overcoming differences of language, culture and, at times, also of religion.”
The Pontiff encouraged the association, “to persevere in this evangelical witness”, which he said, “joins firmness to meekness, in order to assist victims of false accusations and to find concrete ways to combat poverty and modern forms of slavery.”
It is my hope, the Pope underlined, “that supported by the prayers and effective solidarity of many others, you can extend your activity to those areas of Pakistan where Christians and other minorities are mostly present and, sadly, also discriminated against and made a target of acts of injustice and violence.”
He went on to say, “may your distinguishing feature always be that which shines forth in the witness given by Shahbaz Bhatti and so many other martyrs of our time, namely, a humble and courageous faith in the Lord Jesus and the capacity to bring love in place of hatred.