“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.”

–Bishop John Joseph before he took his own life

Bishop John Joseph was born in Khushpur in 1932. He remained a Catholic Bishop of Faisalabad from 1984 to 1998. He was also a human rights activist who advocated for religious coexistence and interfaith harmony through dialogues and engagement. In particular, he kept fighting against the use of Blasphemy law to persecute Christians in the country. He was deeply grieved and protested against the burning down of Shanti Nagar, a predominantly Christian neighborhood near Khanewal, on the false charges of blasphemy in 1997. When Manzoor Masih was accused of blasphemy and murdered outside the court in 1994, Jospeh vowed to never let anyone be killed on the charges of blasphemy again as long as he was alive. When yet another Christian boy, Ayub Masih, was sentenced to death on the charges of blasphemy, Joseph was too grieved, shattered. He went to the courthouse of Sahiwal where Ayub was sentenced and shot himself in 1998. Perhaps he had lost faith in dialogues and decided to shake our Muslim consciousness by sacrificing his own life.

Given how there is no significant recognition for Bishop John Joseph today and the Christian community continues to be persecuted in this country as the cases of Sanga Hill in 2005, Gojra in 2009 and Lahore’s Badami Bagh in 2013 indicate, a painful question arises: Has the Bishop’s heroic, brave sacrifice of his life been wasted?