Thursday, September 22, 2011

PC Community Flash – Happy Birthday Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti! Sept 9th, 2011.

Dinner with the Canadian Government and
Tribute to Shahbaz Bhatti

Hon Jason Kenney speaks to the audience gathered at the tribute dinner

September 9th, 2011 the International Christian Voice hosted a dinner on the birthday of Shahbaz Bhatti to pay homage to his life and work; something that this organization wishes to carry forward after his martyrdom. The event also congratulated the newly elected Progressive Conservative Government for their recent election successes as well as to thank Rt Hon Stephen Harper for his announcement regarding the creation of an Office for International Religious Freedom.
A petition containing over eight thousand signatures, and demanding the condemnation of the Blasphemy (Sharia) Law in Pakistan as well as giving specific, attainable recommendations for the government of Canada on how to help the religious minorities of Pakistan, was presented to Hon Jason Kenney (Minister for Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism); for the Prime Minister.
 The first part of this petition was presented on August 13th, 2011 to Deputy Counsel General Imran Ali (Toronto Consulate) to be given to President Zardari (Pakistan). This part of the petition demanded (on behalf of Canadian citizens) the repeal of the Blasphemy (Sharia) Law, due to its clear violation of human rights.
Special guests present at the event were Hon Jason Kenney (Minister for Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Hon Bal Gosal (Minister of State – Sport), MP Brad Butt (Mississauga – Streetsville), MP Ted Opitz (Etobicoke – Center), Dr. Bikram Lamba, Rev Bishop Paul Zabel (Lutheran Church), Rev Dr. W.J. Clyde Ervine (Centeral Presbyterian Church, Hamilton), Pastor Steve Long (Catch the Fire – formerly Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship), Chantal Desloges (One Free World International), Councillor Vincent Crisanti (Etobicoke North). In attendance were also the pastors of approximately thirty different churches, organizations such as Voice of the Martyrs Canada, Canadian Coptics Association, Canadian Hindu Advocacy, Christian Heritage Party, many community leaders, and over five hundred concerned Canadians.
I hosted this event with my fellow MC Tabassam Iqbal, without whom it would have been a difficult task to keep things going as planned! The program began with a prayer (Rev Bishop Paul Zabel) and a scripture reading (Rev Dr. Rashid Gill – Light Bearers of Christ Church), and the national anthem beautifully sung by Naomi Zaman (Recording Artist of Pakistani Christian heritage).
Pervez Masih (President ICV) gave an emotional speech, sharing his thoughts regarding martyr Shahbaz Bhatti and misuse of the Blasphemy Law. He explained Shahbaz’s vision and spoke with such passion and vigor about the Christians that are daily viciously persecuted in Pakistan, that it brought him to tears.
Nitasha Bhatti spoke about the Shahbaz Bhatti she knew, as her uncle and someone she looks up to even now; she vowed once again to continue his mission. At one point Nitasha broke out into sobs and humorously stated that her uncle hated how sensitive she was. A touching moment.
On a personal note, the night before this event while speaking to Nitasha at home she was remembering her uncle; she told a rather funny story about how martyr Bhatti was afraid of “chipkalis” (lizards that crawl all over the walls in Pakistan) but not the Taliban. A determination and courage that she reiterated in her speech.
The audience was privileged to hear from Chantal Desloges, Pastor Steve Long, and Councillor Vincent Crisanti; all of whom gave their thoughts on persecution, religious freedom and the work that Shahbaz Bhatti started.
Ms. Desloges spoke about the work that One Free World International stood for, religious freedom for all, and vowed that her organization would support the legal upholding of these freedoms however they could. Pastor Steve Long, introduced by Mrs. Phoebe Samuel as a family friend of the Bhatti’s and a lover of spicy Pakistani food; spoke about the inspiration that Shahbaz gave through his efforts.
Councillor Vincent Crisanti’s speech was one of the favourites of the night. He was clear about his own thoughts regarding the issues that Pakistan was having with its state sponsoring of religious persecution.
In the midst of these speeches, a special presentation made by myself on behalf of the ICV, was shown. This presentation (shown as a YouTube link here) underscored several prominent cases of persecution in Pakistan and gave tribute to Shahbaz Bhatti, his life, work and martyrdom. The video drew the crowd in, a chilling and silent atmosphere.

I made this video because I myself was inspired by martyr Bhatti. I am so amazed at the way that this man dedicated himself to his God given purpose; regardless of opposition he surely felt by both the Muslim government and even some in his own community. Every time I look around at the blessings in life that I daily enjoy, I am reminded and encouraged by the faces of those children of God living in places like Pakistan, who refuse to deny their faith in Jesus. God used martyr Bhatti in incredible ways in his life, and now through his death as well; what more could a Christian want.
Peter Bhatti (Chairman ICV), spoke briefly highlighting the current neglected and upsetting situation of religious minorities in Pakistan. He then passed on the mic to Raheel Masih, a bright young Pakistani Christian who has made a name for himself across the border as a radio and tv personality. Raheel read out the cover letter of the petition for the audience, Hon Jason Kenney and the representatives of government; presenting the demands of the over eight thousand Canadians who signed it.

Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti with Hon Jason Kenney & Rt Hon Stephen Harper
Minister Kenney was so impressed by the recommendations written in the cover letter (written by Mr. Vincent Samuel on behalf of the ICV), he stated that he appreciated how specific and detailed they were.
On a side note, he also later appreciated Raheel’s eloquent oratory skills and said he should get into politics too! We’re proud of you Raheel!

Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti with Rt Hon Stephen Harper
During Minister Kenney’s almost twenty minute speech, the audience was in a pin-drop silence, only the second time that evening where all attention was drawn to the front. We could all see how genuinely he spoke about Shahbaz Bhatti, and the meeting that Shahbaz had with Prime Minister Harper. He also said that parliament had already voted unanimously to condemn the Blasphemy Law in Pakistan.
Thank God for that!
Rev Dr. Clyde Ervine presented a tribute, on behalf of the Canadian Christian community, alongside Minister Kenney to honor Shahbaz Bhatti’s mother; who is now residing in Canada. As this was martyr Bhatti’s birthday, a cake was cut for everyone to enjoy after dinner in celebration of this great man’s life.
MP Brad Butt, brought a letter from the office of the Prime Minister forward, which Minister Kenney presented to Peter Bhatti.
Various church leaders and the ICV executives were also recognized with plaques.
The speeches ended with thanks to the honorable guests given by Mr. Shahbaz Sindhu (Vice President ICV), and a song by Naomi Zaman – Hero.
Minister Kenney was accosted by the enthusiastic audience for pictures and words of encouragement. He was gracious enough to stand and say hello to just about everyone in the room, before enjoying dinner at Peter Bhatti’s table.

Thousands attend the funeral of martyr Shahbaz Bhatti
I am so grateful to the wonderful audience at this event. I was so pleased to be a part of their evening, and blessed by hundreds of handshakes, all their thanks and words of encouragement for my speaking and creating the video presentation. The best thanks I received that night was by a few people that I did not even know who said that the tribute “was how Shahbaz would have wanted it”. I can’t begin to explain what those words meant to me, or what I went through in creating it. A month of research and reading about all the horrifying things that my brothers and sisters in Christ go through in Pakistan weighed heavily on my heart and mind. I intend to see this burden God gave me through, and hopefully all you readers can help me in the future – to help the least of these.
This cause is bigger than all of us. I believe God gives us all purpose in life, a mission that he has specifically for us – for me. As I daily pray and learn more and more about my possibilities I am heartened by the knowledge that I’m on the right track for my mission. I pray that you all seek your purpose as well, and for those of you who have found it – I pray that God shows you the right way to accomplish His Work.

1 comment:

  1. thank you for your deeply moving hard work. we ar proud of you. GOD BLESS YOU