Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pakistan Religious Assassinations...need international response

By Colin Freeze, Globe and Mail, March 2, 2011
Mr. Bhatti, Pakistan’s Minister for Minorities, was shot by masked gunmen in broad daylight Wednesday after visiting his mother in Islamabad.

The assassination is yet another sign of Muslim-majority Pakistan’s slide into fundamentalism and anarchy. And it hits close to home. Mr. Bhatti was in Canada just last month to speak about Pakistan’s growing intolerance. He had clearly made an impression on some of the country’s foremost politicians, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
An outspoken Catholic, Mr. Bhatti, 42, made no secret of his contempt for Islamist extremism. He openly campaigned against sharia law, and had spoken out against a 25-year-old blasphemy law that he felt singled out non-Muslims in Pakistan.
Such pronouncements, he frequently acknowledged, made him a marked man. In fact, he prepared several videotaped messages to be broadcast in the event of his death.
“The forces of violence, militant banned organizations – the Taliban and al-Qaeda – they want to impose their radical philosophy in Pakistan,” he said in one. “I’m ready to die for a cause. … I would prefer to die for my principles, and for the justice of my community, rather than to compromise on these threats.”
Canada’s Parliament unanimously voted Wednesday to denounce the assassination, as Mr. Harper lauded Mr. Bhatti for his courage. U.S. President Barack Obama, the Vatican and the Archbishop of Canterbury condemned the killing.
By Margaret Wente, Globe and Mail, January 13, 2011
Meantime, there was another shooting last week – a far more dangerous one for the United States, and for the world. It happened in Pakistan. The governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was shot 26 times by one of his own security guards. Mr. Taseer was one of his country’s most liberal and progressive figures. He fought courageously to defend the life of Asia Bibi, an illiterate Christian woman who faces death for allegedly violating Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which decree that insulting the Prophet Mohammed is a capital offence.
We have to ask some serious questions about the assassination of those who do not "comply" with the wishes of a violent group.
Clearly, these are not random acts. The killing of two (and perhaps more) American servicemen in Frankfurt Germany yesterday was not a random act either. The clash of opposing belief systems, opposing theologies, opposing ideologies is taking the form of political, religious and cultural terrorism, and the numbers are growing.
Clearly, the availability of weapons, the culture of violence, the rise of extremism, and the sense of alienation that accompanies the convergence of these factors, and others, is not going away.
Dismissing these killings with a "what would you expect in Pakistan" attitude does not ease the pain. And it is, or ought to be, global pain.
Killing opponents because they represent a threat to one's ideology/theology requires not only an act of parliament condemming such killings; it requires an international, coordinated strategy to bring the perpetrators to the international court of justice, not merely the internal court of Pakistan. These are crimes against humanity; these are not random acts of violence by persons who might plead some form of insanity in their defence. And yet, humanity wrings its hands, collectively to be sure, but also, it seems, impotently.
We all know that Pakistan is virtually a failed state, and that its people and its systems are being ravaged by the forces like the Taliban and AlQaeda, while the Americans and NATO are pouring military and diplomatic resources into Afghanistan. We also know that such killings will continue, unabated, and without significant justice to bring their perpetrators to the light of the world community.
Moderates in most faiths converse with moderates from other faiths. And such conversations continue at this moment. However, when the extremists are permitted to speak for the moderates, in any faith tradition including the Christian tradition, then that tradition has an obligation to work with those extremists, from within the faith tradition. And that has not happened in the Christian tradition; it is not happening in the Islamic tradition; and it may not be happening in the Hebraic tradition either. And it is the extremists that bring all faith traditions into legitimate disrepute.
Furthermore, the extremists in one faith bring out the extremists in opposing faiths, and the sparks needed for violence are ignited.
It is time for the religious leaders of the major world faith traditions, including the Dalai Lama, to convene an international "pow-wow" perhaps hosted by the North American First Nations, to discuss the need of all people to live in harmony. Such a conference could shine light on the commonalities of world faiths, the differences, and the honourable traditions that have grown up around each tradition. If nothing but significantly enhanced understanding emerged from such a gathering, perhaps that might reduce the risk we all face, that this boiling pot will "boil over" into more violence.
This is a problem far larger than one that can be left to the politicians, or to the military commanders, or to the diplomats of all countries. It is a scourge on the lives of all peoples of all faiths in every country everywhere. And it is not going away.
We must have all oars pulling in unison to remove this cancer from our lives, before we all become targets.

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