Pakistani man who died stopping church attack nominated for sainthood

Pakistani man who died stopping church attack nominated for sainthood

This article first appeared in our partner site, Independent Urdu

Akash Bashir, 20, is the first Pakistani to be nominated as a candidate for sainthood, for his courage and bravery in 2015 when he intercepted a suicide bomber from entering a church in Lahore and saved countless lives by sacrificing his own.

Mr Bashir lived in Youhanabad, a densely populated Christian neighbourhood in Lahore. He volunteered as a security guard at his local St John’s Catholic Church. On March 15, 2015, suicide bombers targeted St John’s and Christ Church, claiming the lives of at least 14 worshippers attending Sunday prayers. When one of the bombers tried to enter his church, Bashir stopped him at which point the bomber detonated himself at the gate. Bashir’s act ended up saving many lives.

The Vatican has conferred the title ‘Servant of God’ upon him, which means he is now a candidate for sainthood in the Catholic Church. According to Vatican News, he is the first Pakistani to be nominated for this honour.

The Archbishop of Lahore, Sebastian Francis Shaw, says Mr Bashir was among those who came forward after police requested churches to engage volunteers from the community for protection.

Speaking to Independent Urdu, Archbishop Shaw said:“At 11 am on March 15, 2015, over a thousand worshipers had gathered in the church when the attackers arrived. One of them tried to enter the church but Bashir stopped him, forcing him to detonate at the gate”.

He gave up his life to save others, says Mr Shaw.

Commenting on the Vatican’s announcement, Mr Shaw says that it is an honour that is conferred upon those who do a great deed for their community. “There was a strict assessment of his spiritual and moral state. There were also inquiries about his character conducted by representatives from the Vatican.”

Mr Bashir was a student of Don Bosco Technical Institute. Bashir’s mother Naz Bano told Independent Urdu: “I had asked him not to volunteer as a guard. I told him how worried I was after the attack on a church in Peshawar. He used to say, ‘Won’t you like it if I’m defending a house of God?’”.

She said that she had not gone to church on the Sunday of the attack. When she heard about the explosion, she went looking for her son.

“When I reached the church, I saw a body on the ground covered with dust. I could not recognise him but my younger son Ramish told me that it was Akash’s body”, said Bano.

Mr Bashir’s father is a painter-decorator while his two brothers repair furniture. His sister Kumaish teaches at a school in the same area.

“I am happy that my son died for a good cause instead of dying in vain. His death is a source of grief but at the same time I am happy that he saved dozens of lives,” added Bano. “Nothing is better than the honour that you died in God’s house”.

According to the Vatican News, “the cause of sainthood is a long and rigorous process that takes several years. Documenting the life and virtues of a holy person or martyr cannot begin until 5 years after death. However, the Pope can waive this waiting period, as has been the case of Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II”.

Reviewed and proofread by Tooba Ali and Celine Assaf

Desk Team

Desk Team