Pakistani Catholics are overjoyed with the news that Akash Bashir, a lay Catholic and former pupil of Don Bosco Technical Institute of Lahore, has become the first official candidate to sainthood with the 'Servant of God' title.
On the feast day of St. John Bosco, Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw of Lahore announced that 20-year-old Bashir, who died protecting Catholic worshippers from bomb blasts on 15, 2015, was promoted as "servant of God" on January 31, 2022, by Pope Francis.
“I will die but I will not let you go in” he reportedly told the terrorist armed with explosives. The attacker then set off a bomb to kill himself and Bashir.
“It is a great day for the Catholic church in Pakistan,” said Archbishop Shaw.
Bashir offered his life as a sacrifice to save the lives of the Christian community at St. John’s Catholic Church, Youhanabad, Lahore, the capital of the Pakistani province of Punjab and is the country's 2nd largest city after Karachi.
“Akash Bashir is the first Pakistani Christian to have been raised to the status of a Holy People of God," said Father Francis Gulzar, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Lahore.
In 2015, Akash, a 20-year volunteer stopped a suicide bomber from entering St. John’s Catholic Church. The attacker from the terrorist group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaatul Ahrar (TTP-JA) detonated the bomb, killing himself and Bashir and his friends outside the church.
Bashir was one of the at least 15 people who died in the attack that also left more than 70 wounded.
Those numbers might have been greater if Bashir had not guarded St. John’s Catholic Church.
Bashir’s mother, Naz Bano called saying “all denominations were recruiting youth following the 2013 suicide bomb attack at All Saints church in Peshawar city. He used to discuss it with his friends and kept insisting for three months that he wasted guarding the church. He was ready to sacrifice his life if God gave him a chance to protect others.”
Arsalan is Akash's brother who guards the church now in his brother's place.
“We did not stop him and we cannot prevent our sons from serving the church. It is their choice,” said Bano.
Bashir was born on June 22, 1994, in Risalpur, Nowshera, Khyber, Pakhtunkhwa Province, and died a martyr in 2015.
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