Remembering the Great Sacrifice of Bishop John Joseph
Active Youth Group
Born in 1932 to a Punjabi Catholic family, he made history by becoming the “first native bishop” of Pakistan. He played a key role in changing the perception of Christianity as a colonial religion. Indeed, it can be argued that it was through people like Joseph that Christianity found its roots in South Asia.
On May 6, Bishop Joseph went to the Sahiwal court and took his life in protest against Blasphemy law. His suicide note read: “I shall count myself extremely fortunate if in this mission of breaking the barriers, our Lord accepts the sacrifice of my blood for the benefit of his people.”
The symbolism of Bishop Joseph’s sacrifice was not lost on Pakistan’s Christian community, which regarded him highly. It was the ultimate sacrifice, not unlike Jesus Christ’s, for his community. The bishop’s suicide brought global scrutiny towards sacrilegious and discriminatory laws.
He dedicated his life to social organisation and political activism at a time when Pakistan was changing drastically. Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamisation project had started to alter the very fabric of the society in the 1980s, with religious groups gaining such power they were openly challenging the state’s writ.
Pakistani catholics commemorating his day every year on 6 May where they renew his vows to protect the sheeps and keep struggling for equal rights in Pakistan. Fr. Nadeem Joseph OP, Superior Dominican Community Sahiwal, said that Bishop John was the voice of the voiceless, an example of courage and evangelical devotion,” and his sacrifice “was a cry in the wildness that lifted the veil of silence surrounding extremism.
Bishop John was the voice of discriminated Pakistani,” said Ashiknaz Khokhar, Human Rights activist and Secretary of Active Youth Group. “He broke the culture of silence and spoke out, when no one dared to, against the extremists of the country. We should not minimise his great struggle by reducing it to seminars or anniversaries; we should instead bring it into our daily lives”.
Reported by Ashiknaz Khokhar
Alumni – AYA/ATF