Benazir Bhutto’s Death – A Call for Action

Benazir Bhutto - ABC News Photo http://www.abc.net.au/news/photos/2007/07/30/1991458.htmIt has been a week and a day since Benazir Bhutto was assassinated as she left a political rally at a park in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. The park bore the name of Pakistan’s first Prime Minister who had also been assassinated there 56 years earlier. Bhutto, a former 2-time Prime Minister herself (the first female prime minister in the Muslim world), had only recently returned to her native Pakistan from a 9-year exile. She was an outspoken critic of Islamic extremists operating in Pakistan, as well as the efforts of Pervez Musharraf’s government to curb their influence. Her return to Pakistan was heralded as a remarkable step forward for the democracy movement there. However, as throughout her political career, Bhutto was not without her critics. Some said that it was her weak handling of future terrorists during her stint as Prime Minister that laid the foundation for Pakistan’s current unrest. She recognized that a return to Pakistan was a dangerous one for her and that she would likely be the target of violent attacks. Shortly after her arrival in Pakistan, she escaped unscathed from two bombings that injured 450 and killed 136, including 50 of her body guards.

Sadly, she did not escape death two days after Christmas. As with any high-profile assassination there is aBhutto Mourners - TIME photo - http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1698704,00.html dispute over what happened. Did she die from the bomb blast and shrapnel? Was she shot before the bombing? Or did she hit her head on the car? Who was responsible? Islamic extremists or as some would allege – the Pakistani government? (Musharraf has very clearly denied these allegations.) All of this will be sorted out, and eventually histories will be written. All that mattered in the hours and days (and still matters now) is that this icon of hope was slain, cutting short the hopes and dreams of many. Hundreds of thousands of mourners and rioters filled the streets of Pakistan’s cities. Was this outpouring of public emotion and violence an ominous indicator of further destabilization in Pakistan?

As I read the news of Bhutto’s assassination last Thursday, I instantly felt burdened and pained. The feeling of loss was visceral. After I paused to fathom what had happened, I e-mailed my friends in Pakistan to see if they were ok. They were. One of my British friends who is a man of few words put it most compellingly, “Yesterday we celebrated with friends. Today we sit . . . and wait.”

I was a little surprised by my reaction to the news. After all, I’m not Pakistani, have never been to Pakistan, and have only followed the news about Bhutto and the rest of the country in the most cursory fashion. Nevertheless, I was shocked and pained by the news. Perhaps it’s because I have a few friends and acquaintances here in the States who are Pakistani and would likely be disturbed by her death. Perhaps it’s because I have friends who live there and would be directly facing the chaos sure to follow. Or maybe it’s simply because the world had lost a voice of peace. Only days after we Christians celebrated the birth of the Prince of Peace, a voice of peace was stolen from us. Yes, she was Muslim. Yes, she had her detractors and her motives were not always clear. But does that mean we should not mourn her passing? Is it not a call to pray for her family, her country, and our world?

It is still not clear what Bhutto’s death will mean long-term; both practically right now and in the history books. I am awaiting news from my friends in Pakistan to get a fresh on-the-ground perspective of what’s happening there. I’ll let you know when that stuff comes through. In the meantime, I would encourage you not to be overwhelmed by the headlines of the day, but rather allow them to motivate you to prayer and action. Those of us who are followers of Jesus have particularly been called to be ambassadors of peace. Benazir Bhutto, a courageous mostly-secular Muslim, lived and died for peace. Should we do any less?

 

For more information on Bhutto and Pakistan:

Pakistan’s Wikipedia entry

Benazir Bhutto’s Website

Bhutto to Posthumously Receive Irish Peace Award

There are some who did not see Bhutto as an agent of peace in the region,but rather the symbol of a corrupt elitist class with her own personal agenda. The following is a Time/CNN opinion piece more in this vein:

A More Reserved Reflection on Bhutto’s Legacy

Possible Action Items:

  • Pray for Bhutto’s family and friend’s in this time of loss
  • Pray for peace in Pakistan
  • Read some articles on the developing situation in Pakistan
  • Ask a Pakistani friend/neighbor/co-worker how they have been impacted by Bhutto’s passing
  • Inquire about a Pakistani friend/neighbor/co-worker’s family in Pakistan – are they safe in the midst of what is going on?
  • Offer to pray for a Pakistani friend/neighbor/co-worker and their family
  • Make a Pakistani friend or introduce yourself to a Pakistani neighbor/co-worker
  • Or maybe God is calling you to more in-depth action as an ambassador of peace. Maybe in Pakistan, or maybe right here, right now in your circles of everyday influence
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2 Responses

  1. Unfortunately with a high profile case like Bhutto’s, conspiracy theories will exist forever. Mexico had a similar case with presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio who was also assassinated. There are multiple versions of what happened and who killed him. Like Buttho, he was well liked and respected.

  2. Thanks for bringing this up! I’ve been going through a similar reaction without a framework to process it or a place to express my thoughts. I resonate with a lot of what you wrote. Personally, I find it hard to avoid conspiracy theories. I am saddened and angered by the loss of this agent of peace and representative of hope.

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