April 11, 2011

CNS PHOTO | PAUL HARING

Men from Pakistan hold signs in St. Peter's Square last month calling Pakistan's slain minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti a martyr.

Preparing for Easter means making a commitment to living with hope and courage, the bishops of Pakistan told Catholics in the country where anti-Christian violence has been on the increase.

Their pastoral letter titled, Fear Not, Little Flock, called on the faithful to "listen attentively to the voice of our Lord Jesus Christ who says: Take courage. . . . Don't be afraid."

Fasting, prayer and almsgiving are tools for preparing to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, a feast that calls Christians to "come out of darkness, despair, fear and hopelessness," the bishops said.

The letter discussed the anxiety created by the murders of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Catholic minister for minority affairs, March 2 and of two Christians in Hyderabad March 21.

Other instances of discrimination against Christians have caused heightened fear among the community.

Several Christian church buildings were attacked in late March by Muslim extremists claiming to act in retaliation for the burning of a Quran in the United States.

"Aided by the grace of the Holy Spirit, let us bring steadfastness in our daily lives," said the bishops.

They urged Catholics to "build the culture of peace, harmony and tolerance so that (the) light and healing of the good news may reach every human being and foster mutual relationships and understanding and respect among peoples of different religions instead of hatred and fundamentalism."