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Pope to defenders of Christians in Pakistan: Reach those discriminated against who suffer violence

Pope Francis held a meeting in the Vatican with the Shahbaz Bhatti Association. It was created in memory of the former Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs. He was killed by Islamic extremists in 2011 for defending Asia Bibi.

Shahbaz Bhatti's brother, Paul, was the representative who met the pope on behalf of this initiative that helps persecuted Christians in Pakistan.

"Today, Asia Bibi is free and I want to thank you, Holy Father, for your closeness and prayer. It has been a victory of justice, of truth and of the strong testimony of my brother, Shahbaz."

The association was founded to continue the mission of this courageous politician and to help and protect the victims of discrimination and violence in Pakistan, especially the innocent victims of the anti-blasphemy law. 

The pope appreciates his work and said it was one fruit of the suffering of Christians. He said the work also tries to promote coexistence in Pakistan.

"To build bridges of fraternity between the same Churches and ecclesial communities. The Spirit always encourages walking together in the service of peace and justice. To build bridges of fraternity and dialogue with other believers, to favor relationships of mutual respect and trust."

Pope Francis also wished that the work of this association could reach all Christians who need to be defended.

"I hope that, helped by the prayer and the solidarity of many, you can extend your action to areas of Pakistan where Christians and other minorities are more present and, unfortunately, are discriminated against and subject to abuse and violence."

The association provides legal assistance, but also has scholarships to help Christians, the weakest part of Pakistani society.