(ANS - Vatican) - On 24 January, the feast day of Saint Francis de Sales, the news arrived that, on 9 November 2021, the Holy See granted autorization for the opening of the Cause of Martyrdom of Akash Bashir (1994-2015), a lay person, a past pupil of Don Bosco.
Akash Bashir, a Pakistani national, on March 15, 2015, sacrificed himself to prevent a suicide bomber from causing a massacre at St. John's Church in Youhanabad, a Christian neighborhood in Lahore, Pakistan. Akash Bashir was 20 years old, had studied at Don Bosco Technical Institute in Lahore, and had become a security volunteer.
On that tragic March 15, like every Sunday, he was working his shift. He was in charge, specifically, of overseeing security at the entrance to St. John's Church. While on duty, news came to him that the Church of Christ, an Anglican church located 500 meters away, had been attacked by terrorists. Akash was trying to secure the area in front of St. John's Church when he saw a man running towards the building. This man, a terrorist, was intent on committing another massacre. Akash stood in front of him, trying to block him. The man threatened him, claiming to have a bomb with him, but Akash was not intimidated. He embraced the terrorist to prevent him from entering the church. The bomber blew himself up, resulting in the death of Akash and two other people. With his sacrifice, Akash saved the lives of over one hundred people.
"The history of the Church is strongly marked by so many women and men who, with their faith, with their charity and with their lives, have been like beacons that have illuminated and continue to illuminate so many generations through time," wrote the Rector Major, Fr Ángel Fernández Artime, in 2019. For the Christians of Youhanabad, for the Church of God that is in Pakistan and for the entire Salesian Family, Akash, with his great faith, is exactly that: a beacon, an example to follow. Many come to his tomb to pray and ask for his intercession.
His courageous act still inspires Pakistani Catholics in their daily walk and motivates them not to be discouraged in front of the many challenges and persecutions they still have to face. The shining example of Akash Bashir, a Salesian alumnus, continues to spread throughout the world. He embodied the words of Jesus: "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (Jn 15:13).