In the last blog I shared just a little bit about displaying the cross and the humorous story of my Pakistani Christian friend, Shahbaz Bhatti, who exuberantly hugged an American “brother” who wore a cross necklace while walking the streets of Washington, DC. I hope you were inspired by that story.
This is a difficult thing to know, but my friend Shahbaz was killed five months ago, a martyr for Jesus Christ. News reports said 25 bullets were riddled into him in less than one minute, just after he left his mother’s home in March, 2011. The Muslim extremists who killed him left pamphlets scattered in the road to let the world know who they were and why they killed an innocent man. They didn’t like the fact that he was a Christian nor did they approve of his recent stand against the blasphemy law in Pakistan.
Long before he had a position in the government of Pakistan, Shahbaz volunteered his time in courts and hearings to defend Christians accused of blasphemy and threatened with subsequent execution for their crime. Shahbaz’s presence was requested frequently in the United Nations, our own government in America, and before human rights groups. But his favorite place to be was helping the suffering and marginalized Christians and other minority religious people in Pakistan.
After 9/11, it was Shahbaz who went to the Pakistan/Afghanistan border and helped Muslim orphans who were wandering into Pakistan from Afghanistan. He said, “The Muslim people do not help their own orphans. They (the Muslim children) have no one.” Shahbaz also set up safe houses for young Christian girls and those who felt their lives were ruined from rape. He established a safe place to earn a living using hands-on skills. I was honored to report on his work in Christianity Today, Charisma and Christian Life, and online magazines.
Shahbaz Bhatti was the only Christian in the cabinet of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). It is not an exaggeration to say that as Pakistan’s Minority Affairs Minister, his life was threatened daily, especially in the last six months before he was killed. In his brief lifetime of forty-two years, Shahbaz Bhatti was shot at, chased, imprisoned, threatened, tortured, and even his little nieces were kidnapped all in attempt to silence him. Now the chase is over.
Threats were increasing and realizing that the threats were increasing and he had no guarantee of the next day, Shahbaz made a video four months before his death—just in case the day came. The video was delivered to BBC (British Broadcasting Company), the news source I rely on most for truth in international news reporting.
Shahbaz said on the video prior to his assassination, “I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ who has given his own life for us. I know what is the meaning of cross. And I am
following of the cross.” (See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12617562 for two-minute video of Shahbaz.)
And so in his living and his dying, Shahbaz Bhatti lifted up the cross. And whenever I see a cross around a man’s neck I think of the freedom we have that Shahbaz didn’t. And I’m honored to display the cross!
How are you doing? Did you take a few moments to get quiet before the Father and ask Him where you can lift Jesus’ cross? Leave a comment and let us know what you’re working on!