IRLA Condemns Pakistan Assassination as an Attack on Freedom

Secretary-General calls killing a "wake-up call" for friends of freedom everywhere

March 2, 2011…. The brutal slaughter today of Pakistan’s only Christian cabinet member is a wake-up call the world cannot afford to ignore, says Dr. John Graz, Secretary-General of the International Religious Liberty Association.  Shabaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Minister for Minority Affairs, was gunned down outside his mother’s home in Islamabad. The Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda have claimed responsibility for the killing, citing Bhatti’s long-running efforts to reform the country’s blasphemy laws. 

 “Throughout his life, Shabaz Bhatti stood courageously for tolerance and freedom, yet he has been brutally killed by those who respect neither of these values,” says Graz. “The time has come for friends of freedom everywhere, no matter what their faith tradition, to say clearly: ‘We cannot stand silently by while horror such as this is perpetuated in the name of religion.’”

Bhatti had spoken out forcefully against the blasphemy laws which, he said, allowed discrimination against Muslims and Christians alike, and created “disharmony and intolerance” in Pakistani society.

Attorney Barry Bussey, IRLA's editor of Fides et Libertas, met Mr. Bhatti when he was on a recent visit to Washington, DC, and remembers him as a man of courage and integrity. “When you are involved in the work of religious freedom, it comes at a cost,” says Bussey. “Today, it cost Shahbaz everything. His bravery and his tremendous contribution to the cause of human rights will not be forgotten.”

Forty-two-year-old Bhatti was a Roman Catholic in a country where some 95 percent of the population is Muslim. In January this year, another out-spoken critic of the blasphemy laws, Punjab province Governor Salman Taseer, was assassinated by one of his own bodyguards. [Bettina Krause/IRLA]