today (Friday, March 4, 2011) they buried my friend and brother in Christ, Shahbaz Bhatti in his home village of Khushpur.
BBC News reports that thousands turned out to honor their leader and the crowds were so large that the burial was delayed by several hours. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12644082 ) It’s estimated that 1.5% of Pakistan’s 185 million people are Christian. Shahbaz was one of them.
I wish I could be there to honor him. However, he was the one who first warned me that Pakistan is no place for a Christian woman. In fact, he personally established a safe house for many Christian women and girls who continue to be under threats from Muslim extremists. Today these daughters mourn his passing while they fear for their safety because their voice for freedom lies silent.
It is not an exaggeration to say that as Pakistan’s Minority Affairs Minister, his life was threatened daily, especially in the last six months. In his brief lifetime of forty-two years, Shahbaz Bhatti was shot at, chased, imprisoned, threatened, tortured, and even his little nieces were kidnapped all in attempt to silence him.
Today the chase is over.
Today the martyr lies silent. Or does he?
The renowned Thomas Aquinas said of martyrs, “Words pronounced by martyrs before the authorities are not human words, the simple expression of human conviction, but words pronounced by the Holy Spirit through confessors of faith.”
In a video recording Shahbaz made three months ago, he stated, “When I am leading this campaign against the Sharia law, for the abolishment of blasphemy law and speaking for the oppressed and marginalized persecuted Christians and other minorities, this Taliban threatened me. But 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. I am ready to die for the cause (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12620506).”
Can you hear the Holy Spirit through this confession of faith? I know I can. And it makes you wonder, do these words lie silent after the perpetrators “hammer the last nail?” Is the power of the cross snuffed out by hatred?
The work of the cross is a mystery:
It was completed.
Yet it is active.
It was finished,
But yet to be seen is
Its power to rally every soul to a choice—
Forgive or avenge,
Live or die,
Remit or retain,
Believe or reject.
Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me (Matthew 16:24).”
Shahbaz Bhatti knew the meaning or the cross and he followed the cross. As a young man, he went to places he did not want to go to and carried a burden he’d rather not carry. And in his choice, he’s allowed that cross to rally every soul in Pakistan to a hill far away; to a hill brought nearer to us all by the sacrificial giving of one life for the freedom of many in Pakistan.
And as long as we also choose to carry that same cross, his voice will not be silent.
Sister Hope is a Christian writer.