By Fr Tomás King
(9 September 1968 – 2 March 2011)
Two years ago on 2 March Clement Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic and the only Christian member of the Cabinet in Pakistan, was assassinated in Islamabad just after he had left his mother’s house. Recently Fr Tomás King, Coordinator of the Columban Mission Unit in Pakistan, met Gerard Bhatti, a brother of Shahbaz, and wrote this article.
Shahbaz Bhatti was the youngest in a family one sister and five brothers. They were born in the Catholic village of Khuspur, near the city of Faisalabad in the Punjab. Khushpur means ‘Happy Land’. It was named after its founder, Father Felix, a Capuchin missionary, his name being the Latin for ‘happy’. The village was founded in 1900. It is one of 53 such villages founded throughout the country by various missionary congregations, mostly before the partition of 1947. The founding of these villages made a huge impact on the sense of dignity and self-worth of an oppressed group of people. Khushpur has produced two bishops and many priests and sisters. It is also the home of the National Catechists Training Centre.There are 300 families in the village.
Jaclyn, the only sister, was the first-born, followed by Paul, who was appointed Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs after the death of his brother, Peter, Gerard, Sikandar and Shahbaz, whose Christian name was Clement. The family owns four acres of land, now farmed by Sikandar. His mother is still alive while his father, Jacob, died only weeks before his martyrdom. Christian or ‘Western’ names were usually given by the missionaries. The two youngest children being given Sub-continent names maybe reflects the need to fit in as the country gradually became more Islamised.
Despite being implored to the contrary, in his 20s Shahbaz decided not to marry so as to devote his life to the struggle for human rights of the oppressed and for justice and peace, which was a very counter-cultural commitment to make.
His only sister, a brother, nieces and a nephew speak about Shahbaz Bhatti.