Dear Brothers and Sisters
this evening connected with many others and together with our Pakistani friends we are here to pray to remember Shahåbaz Bhattì, killed by armed men on March 2, 2011, ten years ago, as he left his mother's house in Islamabad. An unarmed, unprotected man, he gave his life to fulfill his mission: to work tirelessly for the peaceful coexistence among the various communities of a beautiful and complex country, where Christians are a minority, starting by helping the poor and minorities. A Christian, every Christian, is called to a mission in history, indeed, as Pope Francis says, "I am a mission on this earth, and that is why I am in this world" (EvG, 273). Shahbaz understood that faith, nourished by the Word of God, can change history. The Bible, which we placed on the altar, his Bible, was the light, the nourishment of his days, the strength that allowed him to carry out his mission with patience and tenacity. Also that day, before leaving, he had prayed with the words of the Bible. That Word, read every day, was behind his mission, his choices, his battles for minorities, not only Christians, his bonds of friendship in Pakistan and elsewhere, such as those with our Community for many years.
I remember him too, humble and in prayer, on the evening of September 11, 2001 as the Community commemorated the attacks in the USA on September 11, 2001 in this Basilica, a place of prayer for peace and unity. A man with a mission and a dream: the dream of a people being reconciled. From his home, his vision rose towards the mountains, and for him it meant looking to the future with hope, believing that God's dream of a world of brothers and sisters could be fulfilled and that he had to be its builder. Since he was a boy he had begun to live it by helping others, from the families affected by an earthquake to the many poor. As a young man he embraced the dream of a plural country. His commitment enters the difficult folds of society and politics, never against anyone, but always in defense of the possibility for everyone to live together in peace. His ties with Muslim leaders are an example of this, as well as his testimony outside his country so that his dream and his hope were supported by the prayer and friendship of many. Shahbaz deeply lives his Christian identity, and at the same time his mission, seeking each time to meet the other, to open doors for dialogue, to make room for the possibility of being united in diversity. His whole life was given for this. It is the life of Christians. It should be so even in this time of suffering and death. Yes, "I am mission," I am the bearer of a Word that is peace and hope. "Go, behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry neither bag nor sack nor sandals, and do not stop to greet anyone on the way. Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace be with this house. Jesus seems exaggerated, and then dismissive, almost unable to understand what we need. But his words are true. There are also wolves in the world. There is so much violence, there are wars, terrorism, arrogant power that crushes others, especially the poor. Shahbaz knew this, he knew they could thwart his dream to the point of killing him. But he felt he had a mission and he didn't back down. He knew there was no time to waste behind himself; he saw people suffering, minorities struggling, despite the openings he was able to get as Minister of Minorities. He knew that the strategy to overcome the wolves did not need enemies nor wars, but it needed lambs, that meekness that makes us resemble Jesus, the lamb of God who died for the salvation of the world. So he continued his mission, even in the midst of many difficulties and threats, aware of being the bearer of the Gospel of peace and reconciliation, of non-violence. He was a man of Pakistan, and at the same time a man of the world, because the mission of the Gospel makes men and women of the world, beyond themselves and their own particularity. Shahbaz, our beloved brother, we pray with you to the Lord to make us men and women who take up the mission of the Gospel in a world marked at times by a lack of vision and the dream of peace. We pray for the Christians of Pakistan, for the Communities of Sant'Egidio in that country, that in dialogue and friendship they may be a sign of peace and love.