Who Will Raise a Voice?
Apropos the film “Of Gods and Men” the heroic witness of the French Trappist monks was celebrated. Here is another witness, assassinated today.
From the Associated Press:
Militants gunned down the only Christian in Pakistan’s government outside his widowed mother’s home Wednesday, the second assassination in two months of a high-profile opponent of laws that impose the death penalty for insulting Islam.Shahbaz Bhatti was aware of the danger he faced, saying in a videotaped message that he had received death threats from al-Qaida and the Taliban. In it, the 42-year-old Roman Catholic said he was “ready to die” for the country’s often persecuted Christian and other non-Muslim minorities.
The slaying in Islamabad followed the killing of Salman Taseer, a liberal politician who was gunned down in the capital by one of his guards. Both men had campaigned to change blasphemy laws in Pakistan that impose the death penalty for insulting Islam and have been loudly defended by Islamist political parties.
“They (the Taliban) want to impose their radical philosophy in Pakistan. And whoever stands against their radical philosophy, they threaten them,” Bhatti said in a video message, which was posted on the website of the First Step Forum, a Finland-based group that promotes religious harmony, rule of law and democracy.
“These threats and these warnings cannot change my opinions and principles. I’m living for my community and suffering people,” said Bhatti, who was an adviser to the group and had asked that his message be released in the event of his death.
The slaying robbed Pakistani Christians of their most prominent advocate.
“We have been orphaned today!” wailed Rehman Masih, a Christian resident of Islamabad. “Now who will fight for our rights? Who will raise a voice for us? Who will help us?”
The New York Times adds:
In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the assassination “an attack not only on one man but on the values of tolerance and respect for people of all faiths and backgrounds that had been championed by Muhammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.”
Mrs. Clinton, who recently met with Mr. Bhatti during a visit he made to Washington, called him a “very impressive, courageous man” who knew the danger he faced.
Shortly before his death, Mr. Bhatti said he knew extremists were after him. “I am receiving threats on speaking against the blasphemy law, but my faith gives me strength and we will not allow the handful of extremists to fulfill their agenda,” he said.