Here is an audio link to a impressive speech given by the Hon. Jason Kenney, PC, MP Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism at PORTICO Church on Sunday March 6, arranged by Canadain Christian Association (CCA).
The Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, issued the following statement condemning the assassination of Pakistan’s Minister of Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti.
“I am shocked and saddened to hear of the death today of my friend Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Minister of Minorities.”
“I had the honour of hosting the Minister when he was in Canada last month. Shahbaz Bhatti was a brave and honourable man. He was a champion of freedom and of all those who are persecuted for their faith.
“As the first and only Christian minister in the Pakistani government, he understood intimately the importance of protecting religious and ethnic minorities. In his too short life, he worked tirelessly to defend religious freedom and human rights in Pakistan and around the world, not least through his public condemnation of his country’s blasphemy laws. His murder demonstrates just how courageous he was in this campaign.
“When I saw him last month, I was struck by how resigned he was about his expected martyrdom. He told me that he would not marry, because he did not want to leave a widow or orphans behind when that time came.
“The Government of Canada continues to call upon Pakistan to prevent the abuse of these laws criminalizing blasphemy, which restrict freedom of religion and expression and have disproportionately targeted religious minorities. We also call on Pakistan to conduct a full investigation into this brutal murder and bring the assassins to justice.
“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I offer my deepest condolences to all who knew and loved Shahbaz Bhatti. I offer them to the people of Pakistan as well. We will miss his courage and leadership.”
An edited transcript of Jason Kenney’s interview:
Q. You hosted Shahbaz Bhatti in Ottawa on Feb. 5-6. How did that visit come about?
A. When Salman Taseer was murdered, the jihadi organizations said, One down, two to go. The two other top targets for them became Shahbaz Bhatti and Sherry Rehman. Rehman is the former minister of communications and friend of Benazir Bhutto. She had introduced a bill in the Pakistan house of assembly to fundamentally change the blasphemy laws. She has since withdrawn the bill out of fear. We invited [Bhatti] to Ottawa essentially as an expression of solidarity and support for religious minorities in Pakistan.
Q. What did he tell you on the visit about his situation?
A. While he was here he explained to us that he was not being given adequate or additional security, even after the assassination of Governor Taseer. He said he was deeply concerned about this. He even asked us to lobby the Pakistani government to provide additional security.
I said, If you don’t have sufficient security, you mustn’t go back, you’re putting yourself in imminent danger. He said, I know that, but I have no choice but to go back and support my brother and sisters. And he said, When they kill me, please do what you can to take care of my family. He told me this three weeks ago.
I had this truly eerie feeling being around him of being in the presence of someone under the shadow of death. There was no doubt in his mind that he was going back to face potentially lethal violence. It was only for him a matter of when and not if.”
Q. You knew him somewhat before these conversations, didn’t you?
A. We have common friends in human rights circles. I met him in January 2009 when I traveled to Islamabad. I spent the better part of a day with him there. He was extraordinarily generous. Part of the focus for my trip was advocating on behalf of religious minorities. Extraordinarily brave man. We’ve kept in touch, met at a couple of conferences.
Q. Beyond his public persona, how did he strike you?
A. There was no artifice about him. He was capable of being joyful and had quite a lively sense of humour, but very, very earnest, I guess I’d say. He was more demonstrably spiritual than most Catholics. After we had a private meeting he always wanted to pray.
But wasn’t narrowly sectarian as a Christian leader. When I met him in Islamabab he emphasized the importance of economic development programs for religious minorities in general. One of the reasons they are vulnerable is that they are often very poor. He was talking about micro-loan programs for all of these communities. He always talked about the Sikhs, the Hindus, the Ahmadiyyas, and not just the Christian community.
He was a very big-hearted person. One of the few political people I’ve met in whom I never saw a flicker of malice.