We are observing 15th anniversary of Martyr Feroz Masih, who was killed by Karachi Police firing in front of Governor House on February 13, 1997, during a peaceful protest procession against Muslim mob attack on a Christian village Shanti Nagar in Punjab province of Pakistan. In clouds of tear gas shelling and police firing on Christian protestors, hundreds became unconscious, dozens were injured while nine received bullet injuries and more than 1,000 were arrested. Feroz Masih was among those nine critical bullet wounded Christian who were rushed to JPMC Hospital where he died with his one hand tightened in police hand cuff to his bed.
Feroz Masih was not any politician or Church leader or activists of any foreign funded non- government organization, or any political party leader or any federal minister in government or any tool of Pakistan establishment but an honest Christian who have passion for his oppressed Christian nation in Pakistan and love for his fellow brother who were victimized in village of Shanti Nagar hundreds of miles away from his home in Karachi. Feroz Masih have never ever met any suffered Christian of Shanti Nagar nor he ever was hopeful of their vote bank to seek any public office in national assembly or provincial assembly or district council but still he felt their pain and took to street on February 13, 1997, to ensure justice and basic equal democratic rights in Pakistan for which he sacrificed his life.
In sub-continent of India, the word “Martyr” has its very particular definition. The courageous person who sacrifices his life for values of religion or rights of community secures very unique respect and honors of a “Hero” in society and becomes part of history. The generations pay tributes to sacrifices of “Martyrs” and celebrate their anniversaries to remember them.
Whenever, a nation is in crisis, their martyrs become a ray of hope and success to launch a new campaign to successfully resolve issues but nations which forget their martyrs have always faced failure as history records.
There is line of Martyrs of Pakistani Christians, who sacrificed their precious lives for rights of millions of Christians in Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The Christians who faced police baton charges, tear gas shells, firing on roads in protest and rallies against injustices of government or faced prison sentences after arrests from processions are “True Hero’s” but those who faced persecution or victimizations under controversial Islamic laws are also our “Hero”.
It is black mark on our record that we have forgotten Martyrdom of Bishop John Joseph, who was mysteriously murdered by secret agencies of Pakistan on May 6, 1998, in Sahewal city of Punjab province of Pakistan. Martyr Bishop John Joseph was Catholic Bishop of Faisalabad Dioceses who led rallies and observed hunger strikes against blasphemy laws and raised voice for oppressed Pakistani Christians on International forums. There were gatherings and prayers on anniversary of Martyr Bishop John Joseph organized by Catholic Church of Pakistan and socio-political organizations funded by him up to year 2002. Now years have been passed and none of any organization has bothered to issue any press release on anniversary of Bishop John Joseph.
Nawaz Masih and James Masih were first Christian Martyrs of Pakistan who were killed by Police firing in Rawalpindi when police opened fire on peaceful protest procession of Christians against nationalization of missionary Schools, Hospitals and Colleges during ZA Bhutto government in 1972. This protest procession was taken out from Gordon College Rawalpindi and marching towards Governor House to present memorandum against nationalization of Christian institutions.
Like Martyr Feroz Masih, Martyr Nawaz Masih and Martyr James Masih were also not Bishops or high profile Christian leaders but common laymen who had love for Christian nation in Pakistan. The families of Nawaz Masih and James Masih were not supported by any Christian political groups or Bishops who had been enjoying benefits of Christian institutions and living like feudal lords. It is very unfortunate that none of any Christian clergy and association have ever celebrated or marked anniversary of our Martyrs.
There are Martyrs of Essa Nagri in Karachi, who laid their lives defending Christian children and women when Muslim land mafia attacked on this largest Christian colony in Sindh province of Pakistan. These Two Martyrs of Essa Nagri have graves in Awami Church of this colony and people pay homage and offer prayers on their graves.
We must not forget but honor those Christians with award of “Martyrs” who were killed by extremist Muslim groups on accusations of blasphemy weather they not sacrificed their lives to ensure basic democratic rights through a political process and voiced on streets of Pakistan against regime controlled by Muslim majority.
Let us remember, Tahir who was killed in Lahore jail awaiting trial of blasphemy, Bantu Masih who was stabbed to death in lockup of Lahore police on blasphemy charges, Manzoor Masih who was gunned down in front of Lahore High Court when coming out after hearing of case under blasphemy, Rashid Brothers who were murdered in Faisalabad Court House when came to face blasphemy charges in police custody and other Christian victims of blasphemy being killed in jails or roads.
When we dateline Pakistani Christian Martyrs, it is very important to remember Martyrs of Gojra city in Punjab. It is horrible incident of August 1, 2009, when Muslim mob attacked Christian Town in Gojra city and burnt alive seven children, women and elder. It is also very sad to note that none of Christian group, clergy and Christian parliamentarian have marked anniversary of these Gojra Martyrs in 2011.
Shahbaz Bhatti, Federal Minority Minister, was assassinated on March 2, 2011, in capital city Islamabad. The banned outfit Tehreek Talban Punjab accepted responsibility of killing Shahbaz Bhatti and warned same fate for anyone who comments on blasphemy law. As a federal minority Minister Shahbaz Bhatti has announced to revise blasphemy to prevent its misuse against religious communities which was disliked by extremist Muslim groups in Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Pakistan Christian Congress PCC always criticized policies of Shahbaz Bhatti because he acted as organ of government and conspired as tool of establishment to abolish election system of Pakistani Christian to empower Muslim political parties to select Christian parliamentarians on seats reserved for them. But after assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, PCC was first to award him title of “Martyr” . It was viewed by PCC that martyrdom of Shahbaz Bhatti was hatched by government agencies which used TTP in Kashmir as proxy war.