(ISLAMABAD, Pakistan) -- The Pakistani minister for minorities affairs who died because he fought for tolerance will be buried Friday. And as his coffin is lowered into the ground, Pakistanis wonder if there’s anyone left who will speak for the country’s most oppressed.
"Today is a very sad day," said Pakistan's Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, during the funeral for Shahbaz Bhatti, who was assassinated by gunmen in Islamabad Wednesday. "The founding father of Pakistan had one wish: he taught the people of Pakistan to give the rights and protection to the minorities… People like him are very rare. All the minorities have lost a great leader."
After the funeral, which was held in Islamabad, Bhatti's body was flown to his hometown, where his family will bury Pakistan’s most senior Christian politician.
As Gilani spoke inside Islamabad's best known church, dozens of Christians wailed and chanted psalms on the road outside, flanked by hundreds of police and Western security officials. It was the largest security showing for an event in Islamabad in the last year. Inside, Gilani was joined by the U.S. ambassador and other senior Western diplomats.
Bhatti spoke for Christians -- who make up five percent of Pakistan's largely Muslim population -- and all of Pakistan's minorities. He was killed because he wanted to change laws and attitudes used to persecute -- and even kill -- members of those minorities.
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