Bishop John Joseph’s sacrifice continues inspiring Pakistani Christians
At the 16th anniversary of Bishop John Joseph’s death, Nasir Saeed CLAAS-UK director said that the bishop’s sacrifice continues inspiring Pakistani Christians even after his life. This is the time to renew the promise to continue the mission he started years ago against the persecution because of blasphemy laws, which are widely being misused to harass and intimidate christens, burn Christian towns and villages, attack churches and kill innocent Christians in Pakistan.
The bishop ended his life on May 6, 1998 in front of Sahiwal Court in protest of the death sentence that had been handed to Christian Ayub Masih – falsely charged under the blasphemy law. Ayub was later released on 15 August 2002 by the Pakistan Supreme Court.
He was the bishop of everyone and more than a bishop he was a human rights activist. His struggle for promoting interfaith dialogue and interreligious harmony as well as for social justice and equal rights for Christians is unforgettable, and that is why he was popular among all faiths and denominations.
He had deep feelings in his heart for the poor and marginalised Christians, and was always ready to take away their suffering. The martyrdom of Bishop John Joseph gives us power and motivation to lead a life in his footsteps, and lay down our lives in a time of suffering, as a good shepherd does for his sheep.
Attacks on Shanti Nagar, killing of Naimat Ahmer and Manzoor Masih forced him to come face to face with his own helplessness. He decided to make the ultimate protest against the blasphemy laws. When words seemed to fall dead at people’s ears, perhaps one final devastating, horrifying action would be a cry loud enough for the world not to ignore? It was Mian Nawaz Sharif’s government, as it is now. How much more life must be lost to persuade Prime Minister Sharif to bring changes and stop blasphemy laws being misused against Christians. It seems that the bloodshed of Christians means nothing to Pakistani politicians and the present government.
“It has been 16 years since Bishop John Joseph left us, but he continues to inspire us even today. He was the symbol of peace and justice, and played a prophetic role for the Christian community. He is example to many, especially those working to protect Christian minorities and their rights, so Christians can live in Pakistan with honour and dignity. Shahbaz Bhatti was one of those who followed in his footsteps and he also gave his life for his people and there are many waiting their turn,” said Mr Saeed.
It is difficult to speak about and demand changes to the blasphemy laws and those who speak are threatened for their life or killed like Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti. But recent statements from the British Prime Minister, and earlier from the American President Obama, about the misuse of blasphemy laws in Pakistan are very encouraging, but the international community must take this matter seriously as Christians are living under constant fear for their lives and have no future in Pakistan because of this law.
Mr Saeed further said: “Attacks on churches, Christian towns and villages, and vigilante killings are on the increase, but the Pakistani government has never brought the perpetrators to justice. Therefore the government must bear some of the responsibility for the bloodshed. The name of Bishop John Joseph may not mean much to Christians elsewhere, but to the church in Pakistan, he will never be forgotten and we will continue his mission.”
Notes to Editor:
For more information contact Nasir Saeed: firstname.lastname@example.org
T: 02081506548 W: www.claas.org.uk