The EFC: Pakistani Minister Assassinated for Defending Religious Freedom

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For immediate release from The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada

March 2, 2011

OTTAWA – Yesterday, the Pakistan Minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, was assassinated in a hail of bullets because of his defense of minority rights in Pakistan. Today, the EFC along with Christians around the world call on governments in Pakistan, Canada and around the world to honour his memory by continuing to defend the rights of religious minorities.

The EFC commends Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari for creating the Ministry for Minority Affairs, for appointing a minister from a religious minority community, and for forcefully condemning the assassination of Minister Bhatti. The EFC urges the Government of Pakistan to honour the work and memory of Minister Bhatti by ensuring that another strong advocate for minorities be quickly appointed to carry on his work. Minister Bhatti was an outspoken critic of Pakistan’s blasphemy law and was urging its abolition. Minister Bhatti’s opposition to the blasphemy law, in addition to him being an “infidel Christian”, was cited in pamphlets left by his assassins as the reason for his assassination. Minister Bhatti’s assassination underscores the peril religious minorities face in Pakistan both from the blasphemy law and the culture that it creates within the country. The EFC urges the Government of Pakistan to honour the work and memory of Minister Bhatti while working for “the principles of religious freedom, human equality, social justice and the rights of minorities” by abolishing the country’s blasphemy law.

Shahbaz Bhatti recognized that advocating religious freedoms in Pakistan was likely to cost him his life, as it had for those who did so before him. In a video, taped to be released at the event of his assassination, Minister Bhatti said “I am speaking for the oppressed, marginalized and persecuted Christians and other minorities. These Taliban threaten me, but I believe in Jesus Christ who has given his whole life for us. I know what is meaning of cross, and I’m following of the cross, and I’m ready to die for a cause, I’m living for my community and suffering people and I will die to defend their rights.”

February 8 and 9 Minister Shahbaz Bhatti visited Ottawa and met with “the Right Honourable Prime Minister Harper, Foreign Affairs Minister Cannon, several parliamentarians, and local religious and community leaders to discuss Canada — Pakistan relations, as well as the status of ethnic and religious minorities.” Minister Bhatti’s visit to Canada, which highlighted religious freedoms, along with his assassination yesterday has tragically and forcefully underscored the urgency for all governments to do more to ensure the religious freedom for its citizens. The EFC calls on the Government of Canada to continue to place religious freedom at the forefront of its discussions with the Government of Pakistan.

10 days ago Shahbaz Bhatti was re-inducted into the cabinet of the government of Pakistan. According to Minister Bhatti his induction “ha[d] sent a wave of joy and encouragement among the religious minorities across the country, especially the Christian community.” Yesterday, a day before his assassination, Minister Bhatti wrote in a communication with Geoff Tunnicliffe, International Director of the World Evangelical Alliance:

"I personally believe that it is Jesus Christ who has once again bestowed unto me this responsibility and position with a special purpose and mission to serve the suffering humanity and I am determined to carry on defending the principles of religious freedom, human equality, social justice and the rights of minorities."

Writing to WEA International Director Geoff Tunnicliffe yesterday, in what was one of his last communications, Bhatti called Christians around the world to prayer for Pakistan saying “It is time to stand in solidarity.”

For more information, you can view our blogs “Christian Pakistani Minister Shahbaz Bhatti Assassinated” and “Shahbaz Bhatti: Blasphemy, Human Rights Commissions and Religious Freedom” at, ActivateCFPL.

For more information contact:
Rick Hiemstra
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
(613) 233-9868, ext. 332
[email protected]

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The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is the national association of evangelical Christians, gathered together for influence, impact and identity in ministry and public witness. Since 1964 the EFC has provided a national forum for Evangelicals and a constructive voice for biblical principles in life and society. In addition to 39 evangelical denominations, the EFC affiliates include ministry organizations, educational institutions and individual congregations, who uphold a common statement of faith. The EFC is an active participant in the World Evangelical Alliance.

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