A letter addressed to Archbishop Sebastian Shaw and Pakistan Catholic bishops for the Cause of Akash Bashir (Don Bosco Past Pupil)
Lahore, Pakistan, 6 January 2017 -- His Grace Sebastian Francis Shaw, OFM, Archdiocese of Lahore, Pakistan.
Youhannabad is one of the largest Christian communities in Pakistan. The foundation of this locality was laid down in the year 1963, 53 years back by Fr. Hennry, a Catholic Priest, for the poor Christians of Lahore and particularly those Christian from the villages of Kasur City who every year were ruined by floods. He worked hard for the construction of institutions as well as for spiritual development of the faithful.
I am Father Francis Gulzar the Vicar General of Archdiocese of Lahore and the parish Priest of St. John’s Catholic Church Youhanabad Lahore, Pakistan. I am writing to formally request your Grace to officially initiate the procedure to declare Akash Bashir MARTYR to honor his sacrifice for his Community of Yauhanabad Parish.
I am a witness of the tragic Incident of Suicide Bomb Blast and attack on my own Catholic Church, St. John’s Catholic Church Youhanabad while celebrating Holy Mass with more than 2500 faithful on March 15, 2015. The security and other people tried to stop and resisted these evil doers, but as intended they exploded themselves, injuring about eighty and killing twenty people.
Mr. Akash Bashir young boy of 18 years was one of those security persons on Church Gate; he very bravely held the suicide attacker and who showed his jacket, asking Akash to let him go. But Akash was so much filled with the love for his Church and with the strength of the Holy Spirit that he did not think of saving his own life. He kept holding the human bomb until the terrorist exploded himself. Akash died that very moment but he saved many faithful with this courageous act of love.
Here I am presenting the case of Mr. Akash Bashir who sacrificed his life to save all the faithful. He was one of the volunteer of our Youth, who dedicated himself for the Security Group of Catholic Church. He was a brave Hero of Pakistani Christian community, who very bravely accepted the challenge of the evil doers and through his sacrifice promoted the message of our Lord Jesus Christ of peace, love of God and love of our neighbors.
We the Christian Community of Youhanabad, are proud of Our Young Hero Akash Bashir and request His Grace Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw to forward our Request to the Holy Father and the Congregation for the cause of Martyrdom.
We are praying for this purpose in our community and we do pray for you and the entire Church of Pakistan.
Yours in Jesus Christ, Fr. Francis Gulzar
With 450,000 Catholics, the Archdiocese of Lahore, Pakistan is the largest See in the country. It is headed by a Franciscan Friar, Archbishop Francis Shaw of Lahore. That city was the site of suicide bomber’s attack last Easter 2016 that killed 78 and wounded more than 300 people, the majority of them Christians. The archbishop recently spoke with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. – January 6, 2017
What is the present situation in Lahore?
It appears to be a little better. Security at our religious celebrations has been improved People are cheerful and motivated. But at the same time people were a little frightened because, as happened last Easter, we know that we could well be attacked during the Christmas season.
What is the importance of the Christians of Pakistan for the Church and for the rest of the world?
We are a very tiny minority -just 2 percent out of 190 million people- yet our Church is very much alive. Most Christians are very poor, but we are very rich in faith. The faithful are really interested in the Word of God and there are very committed lay catechists, who are helping young people and married couples to live their faith with fervor.
The Year of Mercy was a very special time. The Christians of Pakistan are champions of mercy. One day, after Mass, a couple told me that my homily on mercy and pardon had helped them greatly; they had lost a son in the attack in the Gulsan Iqbal Park on Easter Sunday 2016, but they had forgiven the suicide bomber.
What is your assessment of the year 2016 which is now coming to an end?
The terrorist attack was a tragedy, but the people are getting back on their feet. The Year of Mercy has been a great blessing for the whole Church and especially for the Church in Pakistan. We celebrated many encounters of dialogue between the religions. We give thanks to the Pope for this Year of Mercy, and for the prayers and help of so many who have reminded us that we in Pakistan are not alone.
How are the relations with faiths?
Interfaith dialogue is very important, especially with Islam. I’m very proud of the good relations we have with the leaders of other religions. We celebrate each other’s major feasts. But in order for there to be genuine dialogue it is important that our young people are well instructed in the Word of God. It is also important that there is unity among Christians. It is important to teach the Bible to the young people, not so that they know it by heart, but that they put its teachings into practice through love of neighbor.
What are the principal needs of the Church in Pakistan?
Education is very important to us. We especially want to make it possible for young Christians to go to college, which is difficult, because it’s expensive and many of our families are very poor. We also need to rebuild and repair churches and mission stations. We need to renovate our seminary. We have many vocations!