Original Text of the article in Spanish here
Translation: Martyn Drakard
The Catholic Church in Pakistan could count on the first ever saint from their country. The number of Christians in Pakistan, which is an officially Islamic state, is thought to be less than two per cent.
The Christian denominations there are frequent targets of attack, lashed by the scourge of terrorism by different extremist groups. In Pakistan the mere fact of being a Christian makes one a “second-class citizen”.
In 2015 Akash Bashir prevented a suicide bomber from entering St John’s church in Youhanabad, in the diocese of Lahore.
Akash Bashir was born on 22nd June in 1994 in Risalpur in the province of Nowshera Khyber Pakhtun Khwa. Bashir was a student in the Don Bosco Technical Institute of Lahore and was very active among the youth of St John’s parish.
On 15th March, 2015, while keeping watch at the door of the church he noticed a man attempting to enter the church with explosives strapped to his body. Akash put his arms around the man to stop him entering the building, thereby foiling his attempt to massacre the faithful inside the church.
The attacker, a member of Tehreek-e-Taliban Jamaatul Ahraar, a breakaway group of the Taliban, blew himself up, together with the young man, Akash Bashir. Bashir’s last words were: “I will die but I won’t allow you inside”.
Fifteen other people died with him and more than seventy were wounded. At the same time the terrorists attacked a nearby Protestant church.
“Bashir gave his life as a sacrifice to save the lives of the community”, the vicar of the archdiocese of Lahore, Francis Gulzar, pointed out in a communique.
The diocese of Lahore opened the cause of Bashir’s beatification in 2016 on the first anniversary of the terrorist attack.
On 31st January this year, according to Fides, the archbishop of Lahore, Sebastian Shaw, announced that the Vatican had given the go-ahead to declare Bashir a Servant of God. This, then, is the first step towards declaring the one who could be the first saint of the Islamic Republic.