In a letter to the prime minister of Pakistan, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) expressed “great shock and dismay” at the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Pakistan government minister for Minority Affairs.
The Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit noted that reports indicate that Bhatti “was assassinated by religious extremists because he was critical of the controversial blasphemy law in Pakistan.”
Condemning the “deplorable killing”, the General Secretary indicated that “we also are concerned about the vulnerable situation in which Pakistan’s minority communities are living.”
He continued, “We urge the government of Pakistan to take all necessary measures to provide safety and security to the Christian minority in Pakistan, and other minorities, and not to be deterred by the violent crimes committed by religious extremists.”
Shahbaz Bhatti, the only member of the federal cabinet from the minority Christian community in Pakistan, was ambushed by four gunmen on the morning of Wednesday 2 March near his home in Islamabad. The banned Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the hate crime soon afterwards.
In his letter to Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, Tveit wrote: “The World Council of Churches calls upon Your Excellency’s government to swiftly undertake the investigation necessary to identify the assassins and bring all who are responsible for this brutal murder to a court of law.”
Middle East commentator and international lawyer Dr Harry Hagopian told the Catholic Herald and other Christian media yesterday: "It is with great sorrow and growing alarm that we learnt 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, " concluded Dr Hagopian.
Also on Ekklesia: 'A loss to Pakistan and a pluralistic world' - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/14246