Is this guy a martyr saint? YES!

Reading the story in the Catholic Herald about the tragic event of the shooting of a Catholic government minister in Pakistan leads me to believe that this man was a martyr for both the Christian faith and for Religious Freedom. Here is the story with my emphasis:

Catholic critic of blasphemy law is shot dead in Pakistan

By Ed West on Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Catholic critic of blasphemy law is shot dead in PakistanShahbaz Bhatti pictured at the US bishops’ conference headquarters in Washington (Photo: CNS)

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.”

That strength of conviction, that committment to both his Christian faith and to Freedom of Religion, that concern for the suffering, and that knowledge that his opposition to the unjust laws of Pakistan might well lead to his death, are all indications (for me) that this man was a martyr who died on account of his Christian faith. I don’t know exactly how these things work, but in my mind that makes this man a saint.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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6 Responses to Is this guy a martyr saint? YES!

  1. Gareth says:

    Gives us re-assurance or rather motivation that Heaven is full of people like you and I…

  2. jules says:

    I think he would be seen more as a ‘martyr’. His killers would have been motivated by the fact that he was a Christian and that he was a strong witness to Christ, as the reason for his murder .The word “martyr” comes from the Greek word ??????, mártys, which means “witness.”
    martyr= One who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty for refusing to renounce their religion ; one who suffers for the sake of principle.

  3. Matthias says:

    Yes he is a martyr a brave man. Once again Pakistan’s iniquitous blasphemy law claims another innocent victim,the other being the Governor of the Punjab a Moslem ,and then there is poor Aisa Bibi,a ,a Christian woman, awaiting execution for ‘blasphemy” against the Prophet. May God Protect all of Pakistan’s Christians and other religious minorities ,and may their persecutors never prosper .

  4. John Nolan says:

    Shahbaz Bhatti has more claim to a martyr’s crown than does Oscar Romero (and I would not for a moment disparage Romero’s heroism and witness) because he was murdered by infidels for publicly professing his Catholic faith. That he spoke up for the rights of the oppressed is important but secondary.

    Before the present unrest in Egypt the BBC, which normally falls over backwards to appease Moslems, broadcast an item on the growing persecution of Christians in that country and allowed Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Anglican Bishop of Rochester, to make the point that no Western country persecutes Moslems but not a few Moslem countries persecute Christians. Nazir-Ali was born in Pakistan.

    • Schütz says:

      I heard Nazir-Ali speak here in Melbourne recently. I have every respect for him. As a matter of interest so does a Muslim friend of mine.

      I also thought of the comparison with Romero, for whom I also have great respect. But I agree with you – I think this is a far clearer case of martyrdom.

  5. Louise says:

    Cool photo! Just think – it’s an image of “where” he is now!

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