The diocese of Rome will host a memorial Mass on Friday for Servant of God Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic politician in Pakistan assassinated by an Islamic terrorist group 10 years ago.
Bhatti served as Pakistan’s Federal Minister of Minorities Affairs from 2008 to 2011. He advocated for four member seats for religious minority candidates in Pakistan’s senate and spoke out against religious persecution, especially the misuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
At the time of his death, he was the only Christian in Pakistan’s federal cabinet. He was gunned down by members of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan while driving in Islamabad on March 2, 2011, after receiving death threats for more than a year.
Following his death, Catholic bishops in Pakistan called for the pope to recognize him as a “martyr and patron of religious freedom.”
The diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi opened Bhatti’s cause for beatification in March 2016. Among the testimonies documented was that of Bishop Anthony Lobo, who gave an interview to Fides News Agency shortly before his death in 2013.
He said that Bhatti “decided to play an active part in politics in order to protect the country’s Christians and other minorities.”
“A man of great commitment, he decided not to marry. He lived a life of celibacy. He had no possessions and saw his activity as a service. I believe that Clement Shahbaz Bhatti was a dedicated lay Catholic martyred for his faith.”
Religious freedom in Pakistan has worsened in the 10 years since Bhatti’s death, according to the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The U.S. State Department has designated Pakistan as a “country of particular concern” for violating religious freedom since 2018.
This week Open Doors’ World Watch List ranked Pakistan among the top five countries where Christians face the worst persecution in the world.
Read more at Catholic News Agency