Sep 25, 2007

Why Bishop John Joseph shot himself?

Sahiwal , 6 May 1998 at 9:30 PM, great human right defender, Bishop John Joseph shot himself in the same court room where , a Christian man, Ayub Masih, had been condemned to death for blasphemy against Islam. His crime: He allegedly had spoken favorably of British author Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses.

Dennis Coddy of National Catholic reporter writes that for Joseph, the persecution of Ayub Masih symbolized the plight of all Christians in Pakistan. Masih -- a name given to all Christians in Pakistan -- was the fourth Christian to be sentenced to death for blasphemy in that country since the early 1990s. Several Christians have been killed in mob violence while awaiting trail for blasphemy charges.

Joseph said the charges against Ayub Masih had been trumped up to force 15 Christian families out in a local land dispute.

Speaking at a rally in Vienna, Austria, in March 1998, one of his last public speeches outside Pakistan, Joseph, summed up the sentiments of Christians in Pakistan, had warned, "We have had enough. We shall protest in such a way that the world will be shocked."

In Pakistan, people saw his action as like that of a mother who throws herself in the line of fire to save her child from being killed, he said. "The words of Ayub Masih's mother sum it up: `He died to save my son's life.'"

Earlier in Lahore on April 7, 1994, at the funeral of Manzoor Masih (another Christian charged with blasphemy who was gunned down outside the courthouse while still on trial), Joseph publicly announced that he was ready to die if necessary.

Mendes recalls the words the bishop preached at Manzoor Masih's funeral: "Bishop John said, `Manzoor, we are sorry this happened to you. If anybody's blood was needed, I should have been the first. I shall shed my blood but will not allow the blood of my people to spill in the country.' (Full article)

Bishop death should be remembered as a sacrifies he gave to save life of others. We should educate ourselves about the Blasphemy law and organize to work towards its repeal. Bishop should be remembered as a real leader, a true hero who died for his followers.

AHRC on Bishops death. (click here)
Bishop hailed as Qui Kyun of South Asia (Click here)
NCJP, founded by Bishop himself, statement on Bishop's death (Statement)