Washington (BWA)--The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) strongly condemns the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, the government minister for religious minorities in Pakistan, and an advocate for reform of Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws.
The BWA appeals to Pakistan authorities to bring the killers to justice. The failure of the South Asian country to uphold human rights commitments and obligations that it signed gives encouragement to extremists who continue to threaten non-Muslim minorities with impunity.
Bhatti, the only Christian in Pakistan's cabinet and a leading voice opposing the nation's harsh anti-blasphemy laws, was gunned down by three men in Islamabad on March 2.
In January, Salman Taseer, the governor of Pakistan's Punjab province, died after he was shot by one of his bodyguards for his opposition to Pakistan's anti-blasphemy laws, and for his supposed support of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy by a Pakistan Court. Bibi received the death penalty by hanging in November of 2010 and is still awaiting the verdict of a superior court. Her case has gained worldwide attention.
Pakistan has one of the strictest anti-blasphemy laws among countries with a Muslim majority population. The law intends to protect Islamic authority. However, it has been used to threaten non-Muslim minorities who make up five percent of the Pakistani population.
Christians, the largest religious minority group in the nation, are now deprived of their most prominent advocate, and are being increasingly threatened by extremist Muslims.