Press Release Shahbaz Bhatti 3rd Death Anniversary
On March 2, 2014, International Christian Voice hosted its 3rd memorial celebration for Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti. This year was especially significant as all organizations and Churches from the Canadian Pakistani Christian community equally participated in the celebration of the event to pay tribute to the life of our hero Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti. This event takes place every year to remember our brother who laid his life fighting for the justice and equality of the Christians of Pakistan. It is important that in the same way that the world celebrates its leaders from all around the world, we as Pakistani Christians remember our hero.
We were honored to have over 350 people present of which included many dignitaries from the Canadian government, and members of different faith communities.
Mr. Max Gill, ICV’s event director welcomed all present and called Rev. Edwin Riaz to say the prayer for the appetizers.
After the appetizers, Mr. Asher Khokhar, ICV’s General Secretary also welcomed all in attendance and shared the details of the program while speaking of the importance of holding a memorial for Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti. He then introduced the MC’s of the night, which included Huma Yousif, Asma David and Daud Bhatti.
Pastor Peter Paul was asked to do the opening Bible reading for the event. He read from the Book of Revelation 2:10, which states, “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” Following the Bible reading, Pastor Samuel Gori was asked to do the opening prayer. He prayed for all the organizations and Churches present that they may remain united and for the rest of the event to go as planned.
The Canadian and Pakistani national anthems were played once the opening prayer was completed.
Following the national anthems, Mr. Vincent Crisanti councilor from Etobicoke North Ward 1 shared his thoughts. He spoke about the sacrifice Shahbaz Bhatti made for religious freedom, dedicating his entire life for the struggle of equal rights. He stated his continuous support for International Christian Voice in their pursuit of continuing the vision of Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti.
The candle light vigil was then taken place under the leadership of ICV’s Director of Finance, Eliza Charles and Pastor Pervez Isaac. Pastor Isaac spoke of the true Martyr, Shahbaz Bhatti was he said that by the lighting of these candles one is able to participate in continuing the vision of Martyr Shahbaz. All dignitaries present and leaders of community organizations and Churches along with the family of Martyr Shahbaz participated in the lighting of the candles.
Mr. Brad Butt MP from Mississauga Streetsville then shared his thoughts. He stated that he was delighted to pay tribute to one of world’s greatest citizens. He said that as we continue to remember Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti we will be able to one day make Pakistan like Canada one of the best countries in the world.
Mr. Joe Daniel MP from the riding of Don Valley East shared his delight from being at the event and shared that as long as everyone continued to work together, Shahbaz Bhatti’s legacy would continue to move forward.
Angela Menezes President of Canorient was then asked to share her thoughts. She shared that she was very proud to see Shahbaz Bhatti’s brothers Dr. Paul Bhatti and Peter Bhatti continuing with the work of Shahbaz. She also stated that the Canadian citizens must take an active role to ensure that the Canadian government continues to take an active role in achieving the mission of Shahbaz Bhatti.
Christopher Khokhar Chairman of Awaz International then spoke of the challenges taking place against the youth of Pakistan. He also shared an inspiring story from Shahbaz Bhatti’s youth, which he stated demonstrated the dedication of Shahbaz Bhatti.
Mr. Peter Bhatti Chairman of ICV then shared a little bit about the background of Pakistan and how the discriminatory laws came into place. He spoke of his commitment to continue the struggle of Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti no matter the price him and his family may have to continue to face.
Pastor Pervez Isaac gave a brief description of the painting done by Mr. Rahul Joseph. The painting depicted Martyr Shahbaz looking at the crowd with a Pakistani flag in the background with blood on the white part of the flag. At the bottom of the painting were the words, do not forget my people. It represented the message Shahbaz Bhatti left for all Canadians as he went back to Pakistan to face his death.
Pastor Isaac then introduced the mains speaker of the night, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Mr. Chris Alexander. Mr. Alexander stated that he was honored to pay his tribute to the martyrdom of Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti. He shared that he felt deeply connected to the life and story of Shahbaz. Mr. Alexander ensured that the Canadian government has not forgotten the martyrdom of Shahbaz and they will never forget the importance of religious freedom. He stated that Canada has to be one of the countries in the world that makes the biggest difference around the world in promoting equality and freedom.
Ms. Sara Joseph then had the honors of introducing the Ambassador of the Office of International Religious Freedom Mr. Andrew Bennett. Mr. Bennett shared his appreciation for being able to pay tribute to Martyr Shahbaz. He stated that it was the sacrifice of Martyr Shahbaz that allowed him to stand before everyone as the Ambassador for the office of international religious freedom. He also shared that he had a picture of Martyr Shahbaz in his office to remind him of his great sacrifice everyday.
Following Dr. Andrew Bennett, Dr. Immanuel Aziz introduced the Consul General of Pakistan Hon. Nafees Zakaria to share these thoughts. Mr. Zakaria shared that he was honored to pay tribute to the formal Minister of Religious Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti as he was also a good friend of his. Mr. Zakaria stated that often-Christian cases might have a hard time getting registered so he guaranteed that any Christian can bring their case to his office and he would ensure that it reaches the attention of the government of Pakistan. He recognized the sacrifices of the Christians of Pakistan stating that they played a huge role in the prosperity and development of Pakistan.
As mentioned, the program was highly successful due to the unity of all the community organizations and Church’s. In the following part of the event, community leaders shared their thoughts.
Mr. John Gill and Mr. Obeid Chaudhry were the first community leaders representing CCA to share their thoughts. Mr. Gill spoke of the great leadership of Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti despite the threats to his life. He said Shahbaz Bhatti fought for injustices taking place in Pakistan such as the case of Asia Bibi and he gave his life for his cause. Mr Chaudhry spoke of the different martyrs who gave up their lives for the betterment of Pakistan. He spoke of the sacrifice of individuals like Salman Taseer who despite knowing that their live could be jeopardized, gave up their life.
Mr. Asher Gill from Good Samaritan shared the persecution of the everyday individuals of Pakistan who are killed on a regular basis. He remember people like Feroze Masih who arranged a peaceful protest against the incident of Shanti Nagar and other hero’s of the Christian community who stood up against the many injustices that took place against the Christians of Pakistan.
Mr. Kashif Dean representing CCASA GTA shared that in order to bring a change to the future, it is important to understand the past. He spoke of making Pakistan a true democratic state that has nothing to do with the religion of its citizens. He stated, “Democracy is democracy, it is neither Christian nor Muslim nor Hindu or anything else”.
Mr. Tanveer Joseph, Chairman of ICV, Community Affairs, then thanked everyone who took part in the celebrating of the life of Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti. He especially thanked all community organizations and Church’s. At the end of the program, all leaders joined the ICV executive as they joined hands to represent their unity and solidarity.
As they stood united, the extremely talented Mrs. Alpha Pasquel sang, “You Raise me Up”.
Pastor Sarwar Dean, then concluded the event with a word of prayer to thank God for the life of Martyr Shahbaz and the continuous unity of all members of the Canadian Pakistan Christian community.