Thursday, February 28, 2013

Memorial Day for Martyrs Day

Christian activits pay tribute to the martyrs
Shamim Masih writes about a Memorial Day for Pakistani-Christian Martyrs killed as a result of Islamic Supremacism in the Muslim majority nation of Pakistan. Below is Shamim’s article. After Shamim’s article I am going to make the attempt to add more details to the Christian Martyrs Shamim writes about.

JRH 2/28/13
Memorial Day for Martyrs Day
Pakistani activists hold joint memorial service to remember slain Pakistani Christians

By Shamim Masih
Sent: 2/26/2013 2:23 PM

Islamabad Pakistan (Shamim Masih): The courageous person who sacrifices his life for values of religion or rights of community secures very unique respect and honors of a “Hero” in society and becomes part of history. The generations pay tributes to sacrifices of martyrs and celebrate their anniversaries to remember them.

§  Martyr Feroz Masih, who was killed by Karachi Police firing in front of Governor House on Feb 13, 1997.

§  Bishop John Joseph was mysteriously murdered by secret agencies of Pakistan on May 6, 1998 in Sahewal city of Punjab province of Pakistan.

§  Martyr Nawaz Masih and Martyr James Masih were not bishops or high profile Christian leaders but common laymen who had love for Christian nation in Pakistan.

§  Shahbaz Bhatti, Federal Minority Minister, was assassinated on March 2, 2011, in Capital city Islamabad.

In recognition to their struggle for Pakistani Christians, religious leadership and human rights activist hold a joint memorial service to remember the slain Pakistani Christians on 23rd February, 2013.

Basharat Khokhar, a human activist said whenever a nation is in crisis their martyrs become a ray of hope and successes to launch a new campaign to successfully resolve issues but nation which forget their martyrs have always faced failure as history records. We as Pakistani Christians remember our martyrs, he added.
Here are some more thoughts on the Martyrs listed above.

Feroz Masih

Feroz Masih - Pakistan Christian Martyr

We are observing the 15th anniversary of Martyr Feroz Masih, who was killed by Karachi Police firing in front of Governor House on February 13, 1997, during a peaceful protest procession against a Muslim mob attack on a Christian village, Shanti Nagar in the Punjab province of Pakistan.  Amidst clouds of tear gas shelling and police firing on Christian protestors, hundreds were rendered unconscious, dozens were injured, whilst nine received bullet injuries and more than 1,000 were arrested. Feroz Masih was among those nine critical bullet wounded Christian who were rushed to JPMC Hospital where he died with his one hand fastened to his bed in a police hand cuff.

Feroz Masih was not any politician or Church leader or an activist of any foreign funded non- government organization, or any political party leader or any federal minister in government or any tool of the Pakistan establishment, but an honest Christian who had a passion for the oppressed Christian nationals in Pakistan and love for his fellow brothers who were victimized in village of Shanti Nagar - hundreds of miles away from his home in Karachi. Feroz Masih had never ever met any of the suffering Christians of Shanti Nagar, nor was he hoping for their votes to seek any public office in the national assembly or provincial assembly or any district council, but still he felt their pain and took to the streets on February 13, 1997, to ensure justice and basic equal democratic rights in Pakistan for which he sacrificed his life. (Excerpted from: In memory of Pakistan's martyrs; Nazir Bhatti; British Pakistani Christian Association; 5/22/13)  

Chief of Pakistan Christian Congress and Chairman Martyr Feroz Masih Award Committee announced the names of nominated persons for first Martyr Feroz Masih Award. PCP Report.

The award is in the memory of the sacrifice of Martyr Feroz Masih who was killed by the Karachi Police firing on peaceful protest procession of PCC against Shanti Nager village attack by the Muslim fundamental group on February 13, 1997 before Sindh Governor House. The PCC central council at meeting in Karachi passed a resolution to inaugurate Shaheed Feroz Masih Award for remembrance of his precious life sacrifice for Christians in Pakistan. The resolution also added to press for the demand of the arrests of the killer police officials involved to gun down Feroze Masih and injuring many on Feb. 13, 1997. This is the first award nomination, which shall be continued in future every year in month of February, and award distribution ceremony shall be held in Pakistan and also in the foreign countries as per decision of Martyr Feroz Masih Award Committee.

(Pakistan Christian Post; February 14)

Bishop John Joseph

Bishop John Joseph - Pakistan Christian Martyr

Rev. Dr. John Joseph, 66, Catholic bishop of Faisalabad and a high profile human rights activist, shot himself dead in the dark corridors of a sessions court in Sahiwal (700 kilometres from the capital, Islamabad) at about 9:30 p.m. on 6 May 1998 in protest against the death sentence recently given to Ayub Masih on 27 April for blaspheming Islam. This is the same spot where Ayub Masih, a Christian of his diocese, was shot at on 6 November 1997.

Bishop John Joseph travelled to the city of Sahiwal in the afternoon of 6 May from his residence in Faisalabad. He went to address a prayer meeting for the Christian parishioners there specially organised for the victims of blasphemy cases. Since the early 1990s when Section 295-C of the Pakistani Penal Code was amended, making the death sentence mandatory for the offence of blaspheming Islam, dozens of non-Muslims have fallen victims to the often-abused blasphemy laws. And the bishop was deeply shocked by Ayub’s verdict.

At dinner time on 6 May, Bishop John Joseph had little appetite as according to the parish priest, Fr. Yaqoob Farooq, O.P.. After others had had their meals, the bishop asked Fr. Yaqoob to accompany him to the spot of the court-house where Ayub Masih was shot at exactly six months ago. On reaching close to the vicinity of the sessions court, the bishop asked Fr. Yaqoob to stay back and went to the spot himself. Moments after, Fr. Yaqoob heard a gun shot. He then rushed to the spot and found the bishop had shot himself in the neck. According to Fr. Yaqoob, Bishop John Joseph was instantly dead.

On hearing the news of the bishop’s death, the Christian populace of the city gathered at the spot in the court-house. As of 12:35 a.m. of 7 May, the Christians there refused to remove the dead body until the prime minister would come personally to express his sorrow. Bishop John Joseph, a human rights activist well-known locally and internationally, was the founding chairperson of the National Commission for Justice and Peace under the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, and he remained in office since its establishment in 1984.

Bishop John Joseph had led two nationwide protests of the Christian community and even went on hunger strike for the cause. The first protest was in 1992 against the government’s proposal to include a column for one’s religious faith in the national identity cards. Christians and other minorities in the community thought that the new identity card system would lead to further victimisation of religious minorities in Pakistan. The second nationwide protest was in 1994 against the murder of Manzoor Masih, a Christian tried on blasphemy, outside the court right after the court hearing on 5 April 1994.

On 20 March 1998, Bishop John Joseph led … (Excerpted from: PAKISTAN: Bishop John Joseph's Protest Against Victimisation of Minorities
; Human Rights Solidarity; 8/24/01)

Fourteen years ago, around the time young Rimsha Masih, now in jail under Pakistan's blasphemy law, was born, a Roman Catholic bishop walked into a courthouse in Sahiwal, quite close to my hometown in Central Punjab. The Right Rev John Joseph was no ordinary clergyman; he was the first native bishop in Pakistan and the first ever Punjabi bishop anywhere in the world. He was also a brilliant and celebrated community organiser, the kind of man oppressed communities look up to as a role model. Joseph walked in alone, asking a junior priest to wait outside the courthouse. Inside the court, he took out a handgun and shot himself in the head. The bullet in his head was his protest against the court's decision to sentence a fellow Christian, Ayub Masih, to death for committing blasphemy. Masih had been charged with arguing with a Muslim co-worker over religious matters. The exact content of the conversation cannot be repeated here because that would be blasphemous. The bishop had campaigned long and hard to get the blasphemy law repealed without any luck. He wrote prior to his death: "I shall count myself extremely fortunate if in this mission of breaking the barriers, our Lord accepts the sacrifice of my blood for the benefit of his people." (Excerpted from: How to commit blasphemy in Pakistan; By Mohammed Hanif; The Guardian; 9/15/12 15.00 EDT)

Nawaz Masih and James Masih

Nawaz Masih and James Masih were the first Christian Martyrs of modern Pakistan - they were killed by Police in Rawalpindi who opened fire on a peaceful protest procession of Christians protesting against the nationalization of missionary Schools, Hospitals and Colleges during the ZA Bhutto government in 1972. This protest procession went out from Gordon College Rawalpindi and marched towards Governor House to present a memorandum against the nationalization of Christian institutions.

Like Martyr Feroz Masih, Martyr Nawaz Masih and Martyr James Masih were also not Bishops or high profile Christian leaders but common laymen who had a love for the Christian people in Pakistan. The families of Nawaz Masih and James Masih were not supported by any Christian political groups or indeed the Bishops, who had been enjoying benefits of Christian institutions and living like feudal lords. It is very unfortunate that no Christian clergy or associations have ever celebrated or marked anniversary of these Martyrs. (Excerpted from: In memory of Pakistan's martyrs; By Nazir Bhatti; British Pakistani Christian Association; 5/22/12)  

Shahbaz Bhatti

Shahbaz Bhatti - Assassinated Pakistan

Today, March 2, is the one-year anniversary of the murder in Pakistan of 42-year-old Shahbaz Bhatti. Still no one has been charged with the crime, much less tried and held accountable.

On March 2, 2011, Bhatti, the minister of minorities affairs, and the only Christian member of Pakistan’s cabinet, was ambushed and assassinated by gunmen as he sat in a car outside his mother’s house before leaving for work.

Bhatti’s work, his life’s work, was to struggle for equality under the law for Pakistan’s various religious minorities. He had often expressed his opposition to Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws and persistently sought to reform them. Like Punjab’s governor Salman Taseer — who had been murdered in January 2011 — he had championed the case of Asia Bibi, the mother of five sentenced to death for blaspheming Islam’s prophet, a charge brought by other villagers with whom she had a property dispute.

He had waged a strong campaign for the repeal of the blasphemy laws, both in the government and as the longtime head of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, a non-governmental organization. He saw the blasphemy laws – which only protect Islam — as potently divisive to Pakistan’s society. They are used as a platform within the society for extremists to determine which ideas can be expressed and which cannot, and they are used by ordinary citizens to pursue vendettas and personal grievances.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for Bhatti’s killing. Two weeks ago, Interpol agents arrested, in Dubai, Zia-ur-Rehman, and a few days later Pakistani police took custody of Abid Malik, two Pakistani suspects in the murder. But the case is far from solved. Dubai has already released Rehman. An Islamabad police official, who requested anonymity, told Pakistan’s Tribune:

“To treat them [the two] as prime suspects would be wrong. We have no evidence to suggest that they were involved in the murder even though they could have certain issues with him,” said the police official . . . They had differences with Bhatti over property issues, “but they were not capable of carrying out such a high-profile assassination,” said the official. “Investigations regarding the case were muddy and not carried out in a proper manner, some evidence points towards sectarian or militant violence,” he added.

Meanwhile, Shahbaz Bhatti’s old post of Minority Affairs has been abolished, Asia Bibi languishes on death row, and Pakistan sinks ever deeper into radical Sunni Islam. And, the blasphemy arrests continue apace: … (Excerpted from: Pakistan’s Honorable Shahbaz Bhatti, Murdered with Impunity One Year Ago; By Nina Shea; National Review Online; 3/2/12 12:08 PM)

A Bishop from Pakistan has called on his country’s government to catch the killers of Christian human rights campaigner Shahbaz Bhatti.

Bishop Sebastian Shaw, Apostolic Administrator of Lahore, told Aid to the Church in Need that almost two years on no one had been tried for his murder – and gave his blessing to a 2 March event in London commemorating Mr Bhatti’s life and work.

Bishop Shaw said: “Nothing has happened yet, but we ask the government of Pakistan that the killers be arrested and brought to justice.”

Mr Bhatti, federal minister for minority affairs, was murdered in Islamabad on 2 March 2011 after calling for clemency for Asia Bibi, the first woman to be sentenced to death under the country’s blasphemy laws.

Abid Malik, who was arrested on suspicion of Mr Bhatti’s murder, was cleared of the charge in February 2012.

Bishop Shaw said that a few months ago the press in Pakistan suggested his killer may have been from outside the country.

He added: “We are very sad for what has happened to Shahbaz Bhatti, who was martyred.

(Excerpted from: PAKISTAN: Still no justice for Shahbaz Bhatti; By John Newton; Aid to the Church in Need; 2/18/13)

Shamim Masih has brought our attention to the cruelty that Christians experience in the Muslim nation of Pakistan. Pakistan treats Christians in the classic style of dhimmitude which is a policy to humiliate non-Muslims to the point that the life of Christians is miserable and also ends in death for the glory of Allah. The Human and Civil Rights of Christians are nearly non-existent in the face of Islamic Supremacism.

JRH 2/28/13
Memorial Day for Martyrs Day

Edited by John R. Houk

Shamim Masih
Christian Rights Activist
Freelance Journalist 
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Here are some more thoughts on the Martyrs listed above.

Research by John R. Houk
February 28, 2013

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