Thousands took part in events in London on Saturday to mark the first anniversary of the assassination of Pakistan’s Christian government minister Shahbaz Bhatti, and protest about the ongoing maltreatment of minorities in Pakistan.
Academics, religious leaders and political figures from across the globe joined in a vigil at the Pakistan Embassy followed by a protest at 10 Downing Street and a march from there along Whitehall to Trafalgar Square for a large rally.
Outside the Pakistan Embassy, a 12-hour Christian prayer service was held. Participants were reminded that if they tried to hold a similar service in Pakistan they could face persecution. During the service, a one-minutes silence was held for Shahbaz Bhatti the Minster for Minorities slain for his efforts to bring equality the country and his opposition to minorities.
An hour of political remonstrations and speeches from key global academics added to the clamour for justice. Speakers included: John Newton and John Pontifex from Aid to the Church in Need; Irshad Manji a Muslim reformist and founder of the Moral Courage Project who flew in specially from Canada to take part; .Martin Mawyer from Christian Action Network travelled in from the USA; Julia De Blaauw came from Holland to represent Global Human Rights Defence. Among other speakers were: Rev Toby Crowe form Sta James, Alperton; Middle East Scholar Rev Daryl Hannah; Manoj Rathaitha from the South Asian Forum of the Evangelical Alliance; Genocide Scholar Desmond Francis; Gareth Wallace (Public Affairs Advisor Salvation Army); John Ware, Senior Chaplin in Dubai and member of Delhi Brotherhood; Pastor Chris Gorman Potters House Christian Fellowship; and John Newton and John Pontifex from the Catholic organisation Aid to the Church in Need.
A petition was submitted to the Pakistan Embassy at 12.30 after a series of prayers. Slogans were shouted towards the Pakistan Embassy to encourage the petitioners who walked the short distance to deliver them to their representative:
At 10 Downing Street the following speakers addressed the crowds: Andrea Minichiello-Williams (Christian Concern); Stephen Green (Christian Voice); Alan Craig (Christian Peoples Alliance); Faiz Baluch (Stop Terror on Baluchistani’s); Jesbir Uppal Singh (Free Sarabjit Singh Campaign).
A Scottish bagpiper led petitioners with a lament in honour of slain Minister of Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti. Petitioners held aloft their petitions in a symbolic display of defiance to the increasing extremism in Pakistan.
Amazing Grace was sung by Christians and prayers were said seeking God’s empowering of the petitions and imparting of wisdom to Britain’s politicians, so that they might better use diplomatic powers in levering reform in Pakistan.
A protest march then shouted slogans as they marched for justice to Trafalgar Square. The march was led by a bagpiper playing rousing hymns.
At Trafalgar Square a small stage was set up for speakers and performers seeking justice against global concerns with the intensifying extremism within the Middle East. Further guest speakers joined us including; Lyn Julius of Harif (representing Middle East and African Jews) Imam Dr Taj Hargey (Muslim Educational Congregation of Oxford); Kasim Hafeez Muslim a reformist (Israel Campaign); Dr Samuel from UK Copts.
Ooberfuse and Hamad Bailey sang moving tribute songs to Shahbaz Bhatti. Eliot Smith, a professional dancer from the London Contemporary Dance School performed a symbolic dance reflecting on Shahbaz Bhatti’s extreme sacrifice. An Asian Choir from Nelson and a Coptic soloist provided a range of emotive performances.
During one performance by Hamad Bailey, hundreds joined in with dancing in front of the stage. People of all diversities were able to put aside their differences and enjoy the festivities together. The song was Christian yet Muslims joined in the dancing. Such activity would be banned in Pakistan and would most certainly have fatal consequences.
Britain’s got talent were holding auditions outside the National Gallery and many of the visitors joined us out of curiosity. thousands of leaflets were distributed culminating in over 400 additional signatures on our electronic petition and a stronger awareness of the existence of Pakistani Christians and the daily intolerance they face.
Wilson Chowdhry lead organiser for the event said: “This was a coming together of academics, humanitarians and politicians from across the globe unified in their condemnation of the suffering minorities in the Islamic World. Shahbaz Bhatti’s death has galvanised Pakistan’s minorities who have held various memorials and global
protests to mark the death of a great humanitarian. 27 bullets were unable to stop his legacy of peace which has spread across the globe. The clock is ticking and one day I believe Pakistan will become the egalitarian nation originally envisioned by it’s founder Muhammed Ali Jinnah.”