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Shock at assassination of Pakistan government minister Bhatti

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. Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit noted that reports indicate that Mr Bhatti was «assassinated by religious extremists because he was critical of the controversial blasphemy law in Pakistan.»

03 March 2011

Geneva, 2 March 2011

Your Excellency,

It is with great shock and dismay that we received news of the assassination of Mr Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister for Minority Affairs in the government of Pakistan. We are deeply concerned by this heinous and outrageous crime directed against a member of your federal cabinet.

We understand that Mr Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated by religious extremists because he was critical of the controversial blasphemy law in Pakistan.  We have been informed by our member constituencies in Pakistan that Mr Bhatti was a man of courage and conviction who had recently stated that he was ready to sacrifice his life for the principled stand he had taken “because the people of Pakistan are being victimized under the pretence of blasphemy law". It was while Mr Bhatti was openly advocating amending the blasphemy law that he was assassinated by extremist forces.

We condemn the deplorable killing of a lawmaker of the country, and we also are concerned about the vulnerable situation in which Pakistan’s minority communities are living. Once again this act demonstrates that the extremists will stop at nothing in their desperate attempt to force religious extremism and violence on Pakistani society. We are of the opinion that terrorist activities in any form or manifestation pose a serious threat to peace and security in any society. Violence and terror are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of motivation.

Your Excellency, the World Council of Churches has followed with great concern the use and misuse of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan as well as persecution of the religious minorities in the country.

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.

The World Council of Churches calls upon Your Excellency’s government swiftly to undertake the investigation necessary to identify the assassins and bring all who are responsible for this brutal murder to a court of law.

Respectfully yours,

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
General secretary
World Council of Churches