Again I lost a friend fighting persecution of religious minorities through just this persecution! I wanted to meet him end of the month. Here is our press release as WEA plus the last letter written by Shabaz:
The World Evangelical Alliance is grieving the loss of Pakistan’s Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, who was assassinated today in Islamabad. The WEA condemns in the strongest terms this senseless act of violence and urges the government of Pakistan to bring to justice those who committed this crime.
Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, WEA Secretary General stated, “Not only have I lost a dear personal friend, but the world has lost a great champion for religious liberty, human rights and the protection of human dignity for all people.”
The WEA commends Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari for creating the Ministry for Minority Affairs, for appointing a minister from a religious minority community, and for forcefully condemning the assassination of Minister Bhatti. The WEA urges the Government of Pakistan to honour the pioneering work of Minister Bhatti and his memory by ensuring the swift appointment of another strong advocate for minorities to build upon all that he accomplished.
Minister Bhatti was an outspoken critic of Pakistan’s blasphemy law and had been calling for its abolition. Pamphlets left by the assassins labeled him an “infidel Christian” and cited his opposition to the blasphemy law as the reason for his assassination.
The killing of Minister Bhatti underscores the peril religious minorities in Pakistan are facing as a result of the blasphemy law and the culture of animosity this law continues to foster within the country.
Dr. Tunnicliffe met Minister Bhatti just recently to discuss the situation in Pakistan and plan a high level visit to Islamabad by WEA leaders.
Ten days ago Shahbaz Bhatti was re-inducted into the cabinet of the government of Pakistan. According to Minister Bhatti his induction “had sent a wave of joy and encouragement among the religious minorities across the country, especially the Christian community”.
Yesterday, a day before his assassination, Minister Bhatti wrote in a communication with Dr. Tunnicliffe, Secretary of the World Evangelical Alliance:
“I personally believe that it is Jesus Christ who has once again bestowed unto me this responsibility and position with a special purpose and mission to serve the suffering humanity and I am determined to carry on defending the principles of religious freedom, human equality, social justice and the rights of minorities.”
Writing to Geoff Tunnicliffe yesterday, in what was one of his last communications, Bhatti called Christians around the world to prayer for Pakistan saying, “It is time to stand in solidarity.”
The WEA will continue to champion the work of heroes of the faith, like Minister Bhatti, and speak out for marginalized and persecuted people in all societies.
Letter from Minister Bhatti to Geoff Tunnicliffe:
March 1, 2011
Dear Brother Geoff,
It was nice to meet you and discuss important issues with you during my visit to Washington. Thank you for your support, solidarity and prayers. Thanks for letter and press release. I had very memorable and productive trip to Canada and USA.
I appreciate your commitment for religious freedom and your dedication for the persecuted and marginalized Christians.
My meeting with you was a source of encouragement for me and I thank you for the solidarity shown by you for the religious minorities of Pakistan.
As you are aware, I have been re inducted into the reconstituted Federal Cabinet of Pakistan, President Asif Ali Zardari despite severe opposition from the extremists included me into the reshuffled Federal Cabinet.
My induction has sent a wave of joy and encouragement among the religious minorities across the country, especially the Christian community.
I personally believe that it is Jesus Christ who has once again bestowed unto me this responsibility and position with a special purpose and mission to serve the suffering humanity and I am determined to carry on defending the principles of religious freedom, human equality, social justice and the rights of minorities.
I am looking forward to welcome you and your delegation in Pakistan. Kindly encourage WEA network and other friends to keep me in their prayers. It is time to stand in solidarity
Yours in Christ,