04/03/2011 9:00 am
In a letter to the President of the Pakistan Bishops' Conference, Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton has expressed his "deep sadness" at the murder of Pakistan's Federal Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti.
Writing to Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha, Bishop Lang, Chair of the Bishops' International Affairs department, said:
"Minister Bhatti’s life was marked by a courageous commitment to working for the poorest and most vulnerable of Pakistan’s people. His deep faith and determination in the face of violence will remain as an example for all of us."
Bishop Lang said the assassination: "will be felt deeply not only by his family but also by the entire Christian community as well as people of goodwill from all faiths."
Representing the bishops of England and Wales, Bishop Lang assured Archbishop Saldanha: "that the Catholic community in our country is united with you and the Christians of Pakistan in prayer and solidarity."
Dr Harry Hagopian, an international lawer and the Bishops' Consultant on the Middle East has commented on the assassination of Minister Bhatti:
"It is with great sorrow and growing alarm that we learnt today of the assassination of Mr Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistani Minister for Religious Minorities.
"This is an unspeakable act of violence that also translates into an example of sectarian bigotry touching the security of all Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan.
"Coming in the wake of the murder of Punjabi Governor Salman Taseer last January, and the death threats against Pakistani Member of Parliament Sherry Rahman, it is also quite clear that those acts of violence are meant to silence the voices advocating an amendment of the blasphemy laws in the country.
"With this latest killing, not only do such amendments of this law become even less probable, it also silences further those progressive and liberal voices within the Pakistani political establishment who are willing to speak out against it and who would wish to see a more just and inclusive society.
"We pray for all the Pakistani people today, just as we pray for Mr Bhatti's family, and we strongly demand justice from the Pakistani authorities against the perpetrators of such heinous crimes who seem to practise the law of the jungle with such impunity."