Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian in the cabinet of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), was assassinated within the last twenty-four hours.
|Shahbaz Bhatti with the Cross that he
so powerfully followed
Shortly after he left his mother’s house, his car was riddled with bullets and pamphlets were found around the vehicle after the killers fled the scene. The pamphlets were reported by BBC News to be written by al-Qaeda and a branch of the al-Qaeda from Punjab Province.
News reports accurately report that Mr. Bhatti was Pakistan’s strongest human rights advocate. What many do not know is that Mr. Bhatti was a dedicated Christian and an international spokesman for religious minority rights for Pakistanis. He not only advocated for justice within Pakistan, but also at the United Nations and before media and government leaders in France, Great Britain, and the United States to name a few.
The late Steve Snyder of International Christian Concern first introduced me to Shahbaz in the earlier part of the 21st Century.
I’ll never forget the afternoon when Shahbaz returned from Washington, DC, for the first time. He was staying with friends nearby and I was there to greet him after his trip so we could do media interviews. Shahbaz walked in the door and exclaimed, “Sister Hope, I can’t believe what I saw!”
For a man who just came from a meeting of great political importance (just Google his name and you can see for yourself), he was so childlike in his exuberance that I smiled. “Tell me, what did you see?”
He said, “I walk on the street in your capitol and I see a man with a cross around his neck! I can’t believe! I run to him and hug his neck and I tell him, ‘You are a Christian! My Brother! You know, in my country you cannot do this?’”
At this point I was laughing. I pictured this Pakistani man with the big moustache hugging an American stranger on the streets of DC who, frankly, may or may not have been a “Christian brother”.
My sister called this morning and said, “Did you see Fox News? Shahbaz was just assassinated.”
I was stunned. I immediately looked up the online report from BBC (British Broadcasting Company), the news source I rely on most for truth in international news reporting. Sure enough, there was not only a news article but a very valuable video that Shahbaz made four months ago—just in case this day came.
Shahbaz said on the video prior to his assassination, “I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ who has given his own life for us. I know what is the meaning of cross. And I am following of the cross.” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12617562 )
Maybe it’s been a while since Christians looked at the cross—really looked.
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me (Matthew 16:24).”
What does that mean?
I asked God that question about a month ago. One night just before bed time I lingered in my dark living room to pray for my family. As I prayed, I stared at the life-sized, lighted cross that my husband put up in our back yard. Quietly, I admitted, “I don’t think I know what that means—to take up my cross and follow you.”
Just as quietly, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart. He explained that to take up the cross of Jesus and follow Him means to:
1. Go to a place where you’d rather not go.
2. Carry a burden you’d rather not carry.
This morning, I can clearly see that Shahbaz truly did know the meaning of the cross. As Christians we need to be able to unpack all the “boxes” that make up our lifestyle, career, and family and, somewhere in the center of each box, find the cross of Jesus.
|Shahbaz Bhatti with the two girls|
Our Christian brother Shahbaz Bhatti taught us to live valiantly for heaven, to disregard the ridicule of people, and love the people around us. Perhaps the best way we can honor Shahbaz today is to stand in solidarity with his commitment to Christ.
“I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ who has given his own life for us. I know what is the meaning of the cross. And I am following the cross,” he said.
Sidebar: Shahbaz advocated for both of these girls, victims of human rights abuses because they are Christians in Pakistan. On right, nine-year-old Razia worked as a servant and babysitter to a Muslim family. While watching Iraqi War footage in April 2003, Bhatti reported that the father of the house where she babysat said, “We will take revenge for the American bombing on Iraqi Muslim children from you because you are an infidel and a Christian.” The man broke her arm, beat her, and raped her.
Sister Hope is a Christian writer.