Anyway, an update from the Catholic missionary news service follows; here's a link to secular coverage of today's public protest by the Christian minority.
ASIA/PAKISTAN - Closed schools, prayer and Christians protesting about Bhatti's murder, tomorrow the funeralFaisalabad (Agenzia Fides) – The Christian community in Pakistan, convulsed by grief after the murder of Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, is reacting to the event with spontaneous demonstrations of peaceful protest, with vigils of prayer and with the announcement of three days of public mourning from Friday, 4 to Sunday, 6 March.
The Catholic community and all Christians in the Diocese of Faisalabad, where Bhatti was born, organised today, 3 March, a public procession of prayer and solidarity on the streets of the city, showing their sorrow for the loss of Minister. A candlelight vigil with “prayers and spiritual songs” is also being held this evening in Islamabad. These initiatives are “a testimony of faith to gather together around the memory of this martyr, to remember his message, asking God for the strength to go on in this state of suffering, as an exiled people,” a local priest told Fides.
Tomorrow morning, 4 March, proclaimed a “day of fasting and prayer”, Bhatti's body will be brought to the church of Our Lady of Fatima in Islamabad, where Archbishop Anthony Rufin, the local Archbishop, will celebrate a memorial Mass in the presence of the Bishop managing the Affairs of the Nunciature, Bishop Josè Luis Dias-Marilbanca Sanchez, since the new Apostolic Nuncio, Monsignor Edgar Peña Parra, has not yet been installed in the office.
Later the Christian community will unite, together with all people of good will, on the evening of Friday, 4 March in Kushphur (which means “City of Joy”), the Catholic village in the Diocese of Faisalabad for the celebration of the funeral. The funeral Mass will be presided over by Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad, and concelebrated by the Bishops of Punjab. A large number of civil authorities, Christian, Hindu and Muslim religious leaders and human rights activists are expected to attend.
Yesterday, after news spread of the murder, spontaneous demonstrations were held in all major cities of Pakistan: Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Multan and Quetta. Christian groups took to the streets protesting the “absence and inaction of the State” in a murder which, according to a Fides' local sources is “clearly motivated by religious hatred.”
In a joint statement, sent to Fides, the Catholic Church and Protestant Churches of Pakistan remember Bhatti as “a statesman committed to inter-religious harmony”, saying that his assassination underlines “the issue of protection for religious minorities, of their life and their freedom.” The Christian Churches urge the Government to “raise the problem” and to “take concrete steps to halt extremism in Pakistan.” If the country becomes “a killing field of democratic and liberal people who exercise freedom of conscience and expression”, it will legitimise the criminals who are trying to take over the country. The Churches condemn the use of religion as an “instrument of threat and suffering for the people” and announce three days of mourning in which all Christian schools and institutions will remain closed. Christian communities of all faiths will carry out moments of prayer and fasting. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 3/3/2011)
ASIA/PAKISTAN - Bhatti “killed for religious hatred” which is being fueled in public schools: missionary's analysisIslamabad (Agenzia Fides) – Shahbaz Bhatti was killed “because he was a Christian, an infidel and a blasphemer.” His assassination is part of a “religious war to eliminate those who wish to amend the blasphemy law. By the grace of Allah, those who are members of the Commission to review the law, will go to hell.” Local sources report to Fides that these are some of the statements contained in the leaflet claiming the murder of Minister Bhatti, several copies of which were left by the commando that killed him and which were signed by the network of Taliban groups “Tehrik-i-Taliban- Punjab”.
These claims show that “Minister Bhatti was killed for religious hatred,” Fr Robert McCulloch, SSC, told Fides in an interview. He has been a St Columban missionary for over 20 years in Pakistan and has direct contact with the Minister's family . “The killers have made another tremendous step forward in the name of religion. All those who are committed to the reform of the blasphemy laws are in danger,” says the missionary.
The murders motivated by religion - remarks Fr McCulloch – are advocated publicly in Pakistan by Islamic extremists who define them as “acts that are pleasing to Allah and that guarantee immediate salvation.” These are statements that a civil state should stop. “How many deaths must we wait for until the civil authorities and moderate Muslims take a position together and institute effective measures against such a barbaric and perverse use of religion?”, the missionary asks.
The analysis of Fr Robert continues: “Religious hatred is cultivated and nurtured in Pakistan's public schools” which have become “closely linked to the madrasas”. One reason for the spread of this mentality “is a distorted education system. The distortion of facts in school textbooks is a major source of extremist tendencies, which have a devastating impact on society.” In some official texts, religious minorities are completely excluded and not even considered “part of the nation.”
“The primary source of the corruption of human values and the political manipulation of religion in Pakistan - which justifies the 'legal persecution' of Asia Bibi and the elimination of Bhatti – is in bad education programs, introduced by the dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s and maintained by the Pakistani government until now,” concludes the missionary. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 3/3/2011)