The protection of minorities of any and every kind is one acid test of moral legitimacy for a government; and such protection is built into Pakistan’s modern identity as an Islamic state with civic recognition for non-Muslims. Many are anxious about Pakistan’s future for strategic reasons. But those of us who love Pakistan and its people are anxious for its soul as well as its political stability. It is heartbreaking to see those we count as friends living with the threat of being coerced and menaced into silence and, ultimately, into a betrayal of themselves. This must not be allowed to happen. They need to know of the support of Christians and others outside Pakistan for their historic and distinctive vision.
Shahbaz Bhatti died, for all practical purposes, as a martyr — let me be clear — not simply for his Christian faith, but for a vision shared between Pakistani Christians and Muslims. When he and I talked at Lambeth Palace last year, he was fully aware of the risks he ran. He did not allow himself to be diverted for a moment from his commitment to justice for all.
That a person of such courage and steadfastness of purpose was nourished in the political culture of Pakistan is itself a witness to the capacity of that culture to keep its vision alive and compelling. And that is one of the few real marks of hope in a situation of deepening tragedy that urgently needs both prayer and action.
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