It was in Gulf News--13 March 2011 by Tariq A. Al Maeena, When intolerance becomes intolerable. Read on, whether it is Islamabad or Riyadh, the inability of extremist elements to accept religious openness is despicable. These words are truly inspirational. Never has there been in human history a time such as this when nations after nations have declared (and acted boldly) that the longing for freedom, justice and righteousness can never be stifled for long. Lest we should forget, it (was) and is, essentially, a movement of the ordinary too. The uprising for democracy was sparked off in Tunisia for instance, by the self immolation of a village vegetable seller--this responsible, hard working young father was driven to utter despair--such was the insistence for bribes by the officials issuing licences for the push carts. The pain of the ordinary people in Tunisia exploded into a national movement... outrageous hopes never die, they celebrate the reality of life beyond death.
Voice For The Voiceless
The Gulf News item highlighted the death of two men in Pakistan, not ordinary though. In the New Year, January 4, 2011, Provincial Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer was killed by his bodyguards for his expressed view regarding the abuses against the minorities in Pakistan through the infamous blasphemy laws. In a grisly sequence, on March 2, the first ever Pakistani Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, aged 42, was brutally murdered in a residential suburb of Islamabad as he returned after his visit to his mother.
Bhatti knew for sure what was coming, for he was true to his calling as a public servant to uphold the concerns of the minorities of Pakistan. To be the voice for the voiceless is never easy. There will always be the ground swell of dissatisfaction that not enough is done and more so, one can easily be the target of powerful vested interests. However, all accounts testify that Bhatti represented courage of conviction and championed outrageous hope. On assuming office as Minister, he affirmed that he accepts the responsibility ‘for the sake of oppressed, downtrodden and marginalised communities’--1.5% of Pakistan’s 185 million.
Message Of Hope
"I want to send a message of hope to the people living a life of disappointment, disillusionment and despair. Jesus is the nucleus of my life and I want to be His true follower through my actions by sharing the love of God with the poor, oppressed, victimised, needy and suffering people of Pakistan." In various interviews, he had stated: "Every religion gives message of love and peace and there is no room for violence in any religion. I will prefer to die for the cause to defend the rights of my community rather than to compromise on my principles." The forces of violence, militants, banned organisations, Taliban and Al Qaida want to impose their radical philosophy in Pakistan and whosoever stands against it they threaten him. He went on to say, "I believe in Jesus Christ who has given His own life for us, and I am ready to die for a cause. I’m living for my community ... and I will die to defend their rights."
This is what outrageous hope is all about. In maintaining radical obedience to His call, Jesus too was tortured and killed. He suffered shame outside the gate. He too knew so well that the walk to Calvary is a lonely one, a suspect all along as ‘the Man for others-One who stood solidly for those who were in the margins of society. Bhatti’s body and head were riddled with 25 to 30 bullets, according to the initial autopsy.
We have reasons to cry and rejoice as well. Pakistan’s only Christian minister met with such a tragic end. Yet he faced death--essentially a new dawn--having dedicated his life for Jesus in the struggle for human equality, social justice, religious freedom and to uplift and empower the disenfranchised.
Thanks be to God who gives us victory in Christ Jesus-the message of Outrageous Hope.