Saturday, January 02, 2010

Witness to Faith, Pervaiz Masih

Maybe you've heard this story, but today it's news to me; anyway, it deserves much repeating. Most people, if faced with a gunman who seems intent on committing a horrible crime would either freeze or try to run away. How many of us would have the courage to die that we might save elite women of a society in which we are of the lowest ranks?
ISLAMABAD, Oct 21: The courage shown by two unsung heroes, including one who lost his life during the two suicide bombings in the International Islamic University (IIU), saved lives of hundreds of girl students in the institution’s cafeteria on Tuesday.

Pervez Masih, a 40-year-old Christian worker, saved scores of lives at the double-storey cafeteria, where around 400 female students were present at the time of the attack.

“There would have been dozens of deaths had the suicide bomber not been blocked by Pervez Masih,” said Saifur Rehman, a senior security official of the IIU.

The other hero, Mohammad Shaukat, survived the attack but he is fighting for his life on a bed in the surgical ward of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, as a shot fired by the suicide bomber hit him in lower abdomen.

Narrating the scene of the suicide attack on the cafeteria for women, Shaukat told Dawn that: “The attacker clad in a black burka was heading towards the cafeteria for female students at a time when they were having their lunch. I felt something wrong as no girl student, even one who observes veil, wears a head-to-toe burka on the women campus. I intercepted the bomber, who shot me, and I fell down but Pervez, who witnessed the scene, understood the designs of suicide bomber and held him at the entrance of the dining hall where the blast took place.”

Organs and flesh of the suicide bomber littered the entrance area and Pervez was thrown at the wall on the other side of the dining hall, said another eye-witness.
Christian writer, Mark Earley, elaborates (HT: Vladtepes)
In late October, at Islamabad’s International Islamic University, an Islamic suicide bomber tried to attack the women’s side of campus. But there worked a lowly janitor, Pervaiz Masih, who like so many of the 2 percent Christian minority in this 95 percent Muslim country are relegated to the most menial jobs in society-garbage collectors, sewage workers, and servants.

The suicide bomber was making his way to a cafeteria of some 300 to 400 women students, when Masih came between him and his goal. Masih is a common name among the Christian minority-it means Messiah. And on October 20th, Masih certainly followed in the footsteps of Jesus, the true Messiah. He refused to let the bomber pass. In the process the bomb detonated, killing Masih, the bomber, and three girls nearby. Meanwhile, the 300 to 400 Muslim girls inside the cafeteria were unharmed.

In the midst of the rubble from the explosion lay two martyrs. A so-called Muslim “martyr” had maliciously murdered others. Meanwhile, a Christian martyr had laid down his life for his brethren. A Christian died to save Muslims from a fellow Muslim.

CNN reported Professor Fateh Muhammad Malik, a rector of the university, as saying that Pervez Masih “rose above the barriers of caste, creed and sectarian terrorism. Despite being a Christian, he sacrificed his life to save the Muslim girls.”

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that not “despite being a Christian” but because of being a Christian, Masih laid down his life.

As news cameras showed the garbage-strewn cemetery [see video here] where Masih is buried, I couldn’t help but think of God’s great reversals. A King born in a manger. A hero buried beneath garbage. And I couldn’t help thinking how one day this upside-down world would be turned on it its head at the second Advent, when Christ comes in glory.

In the meantime, pray for persecuted Christians in Pakistan who suffer under unjust blasphemy laws, and who as recently as this past July were murdered, beaten, and had their homes set on fire simply for bearing the name of Jesus.

Pray that Masih’s heroic actions will help many Pakistanis to see Christians in a different light. And pray that Islamic extremists would have their eyes opened to what it means to be a true martyr, that is, to give one’s life to save others, not to give one’s life to kill others.
Most people, I dare say, would be unable to make the split-second decision not to run away but instead to put one's life on the line for others, for women who probably never gave you a second's notice unless, perhaps, it was in caste-bound condescension. Most people couldn't make that important moral decision because in some important sense they are less free than the illiterate janitor with the name of "messiah".

Gil Bailie has put up a quote, from Hans Urs von Balthasar, which might throw some light on this event:
. . . from the true Christian there radiates the kind of freedom that is constantly only being sought after by the non-Christian. In modern times, the freedom of man is a theme which preoccupies both Christian and non-Christian, and a competition is in process as to who can understand this freedom more profoundly, who more effectively put it into practice.
Bailie adds:
One could argue that the failure to understand the true nature of freedom is at the heart of the contemporary crisis, and, moreover, that the very notion of the "true nature" of anything has been put into question by our confusions about freedom.

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