May 6th marked 14 years since the death of Bishop John Joseph. His sacrifice is indeed an unforgettable one. Roman Catholic bishop of Faisalabad, Pakistan, was found dead in the compound of a courthouse in the town of Sahiwal.
He wrote prior to his death: “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 tyranny of the blasphemy law, which is considered the root cause of Christians’ persecution, pushed him to end his own life on May 6, 1998, He was protesting the death sentence that had been handed to Ayub Masih, a Christian who was later released on August 15, 2002, by the Pakistan Supreme Court
Bishop Joseph dedicated so much of his life to raising awareness of the plight of Christians at the national and international level, and had campaigned tirelessly for the repeal of the blasphemy laws.
He was popular among Muslims for promoting interfaith dialogue and inter-religious harmony. To the bishop, the blasphemy laws were not only being misused to make life miserable for Christians. They were also responsible for widening the gap between the two faith communities and fomenting deep distrust and enmity.
The martyrdom of Bishop John Joseph gives us power and motivation to lead a life in his footsteps, and lay down our lives in a time of suffering, as a good shepherd does for his sheep.