Death and Solidarity
Shabhaz Bhatti is dead. He was murdered in the name of the Tehrik-e-Taliban coalition by an Islamic militant “for speaking out against the blasphemy law”. Bhatti was Pakistan’s federal minister for religious minorities. He was a Catholic. Just a few months ago, when a fatwa was issued by a Muslim religious leader proclaiming that he should be assassinated, Bhatti asked Pope Benedict XVI and all of his fellow Catholics for prayers for his safety.
I passed the word in a December commentary, and I even made an effort to pray for Shabhaz Bhatti, at least for a few days until I forgot about it. Whether many prayed for him is something known only to God, as is the answer to the question of why God allowed him to be killed rather than—in effect, miraculously—preserving his life. But the fact remains that Shabhas Bhatti is dead.
This murder is especially hard on Pakistanis who care about a just society. Several leaders who have called for reform of the blasphemy laws have been threatened. At least one has withdrawn her objections as a result. The governor of Punjad province was murdered for the same reason in February. And now a federal minister. The ability of Islamic militants to operate with impunity within Pakistan strikes at the very foundations of the Pakistani social order.
The murder is also hard on Catholics throughout the Islamic world, who have been jolted with yet more evidence that they run grave risks just by adhering to their Faith and calling for reforms that respect that Faith. The bishops in Pakistan have called on the government to “recognize and take decisions about these issues, because there must be an end to this situation, where violence prevails.” Bhatti’s funeral was conducted amid security measures so tight that, once the Prime Minister had arrived at the church, the building was locked and even Bhatti’s close relatives were not allowed to enter.
Three days of public mourning are being held in Shabhaz Bhatti’s memory, and today is a special day of prayer and fasting.
Islam has emerged again in recent years as a grave threat to the peace and security of those throughout the world who refuse to submit either to the Islamic vision of God or to the theocracy by which that vision is imposed. As such, militant Islam is an enormous danger not only to sincere Christians but also to secularists who adhere to Western ideals of toleration and an open society.
It remains to be seen whether those in the West who have now exchanged liberty for license will find the courage to offer any meaningful resistance, or whether they are even capable of facing squarely any life and death issue which might call them to the salvation offered by Jesus Christ. Certainly Christians would welcome the conversion of militant secularists, who are busy destroying the once-vibrant culture of the West, as much as they would welcome the conversion of Islamic militants, who seek the destruction of all infidels. Sincere Christians are, after all, squeezed very hard on both sides.
But however the question of conversion ultimately works itself out, committed Catholics ought to heed once again the call to pray for Shabhaz Bhatti, for his family, for others like him, and for all Christians terrorized by Islamic oppression. Speaking for myself, I hope I will not neglect this duty again. It is a spiritual work of mercy, and a necessary solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We would be poor co-religionists indeed were we to forget that Shabbhaz Bhatti called for spiritual support from the Pope and from his fellow Catholics everywhere—and now Shabhaz Bhatti is dead.
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Posted by: koinonia -
Mar. 05, 2011 3:24 AM ET USA
I believe he said something like "I understand taking up your cross, and I embrace it," I cannot help but find his example- his words expressing the great honor of martyrdom- to be a remarkably striking contemporary example of heroic sanctity. This gentleman was so close in age and so cognizant of the risks to his life and yet so willing to "embrace" death for the love of our Savior and the love of his Christian brothers. We have lost someone as rare as he is valuable. We have lost a real man.
Posted by: Justin8110 -
Mar. 04, 2011 9:56 PM ET USA
You're right, Western secularists will be next on the hit list, especially in Europe where Muslims are poised to gain a demographic majority. Without the Faith European secularists have nothing to live in or die for and nothing to believe in but a vague "tolerance" and wishful thinking about a brotherhood of man without God. Sooner or later Catholics everywhere will be faced with a showdown between Christ and Mohammed.
Posted by: jamesroddy6823 -
Mar. 04, 2011 9:00 PM ET USA
Jeff, thank you for another article. I too stopped praying for Shabhaz Bhatti. Your article has awakened in me a new desire to try always to remember the daily martyrs for the Faith.