Two and half years after the suicide bombings in our Christian colony of Youhannabad, life goes on. One of the largest parishes in Pakistan, St. John Parish is full of life. Every year the 800 newly baptized (mainly children), our Catholic schools, community center and Caritas services are the best expression of the vitality of our Catholic community,” says Fr. Francis Gulzar, SDB, parish priest of Youhannabad.
Among our lights and motivations, the beloved Akash Bashir, our hero and martyr of the March 2015 twin suicide bombings at two Churches – the Catholic St. John, and the nearby Anglican parish. Life has returned almost to normal; our parish Church was renewed and we continue the beautification of the church compound to raise the spirit of our Catholics.
Whenever I bring the frequent visitors, both from abroad or other parts of our country, we are encouraged by the strong faith of Akash Bashir's family - his parents, two brothers and one sister. In our Christian cemetery, the tomb of Akash Bashir shines and is always full of flowers. And we read the Revelation verses: ‘Remain faithful even to death and I will give you the crown of Life’ (Revelation 2,10).
Many come to pray and ask his intercession. In the name of our parish community, we have already published a small booklet in English and Urdu with a few testimonies and prayers: 'Akash Bashir is one of those people who proved themselves to be a true Christian and human. We do believe that by giving his life for others he is seated in the company of other martyrs. His daring and spirited act conveys the message of sacrifice.
And today, let us pray for all the families whose children laid down their lives for others and set the example of living love. May their living example become the source of change that needs to take place in the minds of evildoers, a true love, the love of God.
Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw, OFM of Lahore, is confident: “Akash is a symbol of hope for all of us: there was a hope in his heart that by sacrificing his life, he was actually going to give life to many.... He had a heart bigger than his dreams, a heart that made him surrender his very own life for the love of his Christ.”
The Archdiocese of Lahore, and especially the parish community of Youhannabad, has started to collect the necessary documents and testimonials for the first Dossier needed to start the preliminary stage of the case for martyrdom with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the Vatican.
The situation of Pakistan's Christian community (2% of the 200+ million people) remains full of challenges, due also to the low social and educational background. However, each light. like the model of young Akash, inspires the young Catholics and their families on their daily journey!