Speakers at a ceremony held on Saturday to mark the 14th death anniversary of Bishop John Joseph vowed to continue his mission of protection of religious minorities’ rights.
Fr Khalid Rashid Asi, the vicar general of the diocese, said Bishop Joseph was a supporter of interfaith dialogue. He said the bishop chose debate as his weapon against religious intolerance. He said the bishop had been most vocal against discriminatory election laws as well as the blasphemy laws.
Father Samuel George said the deceased bishop was also very good at mobilising people for a cause. “He had dedicated his life to bridging differences between various communities,” he said.
Father Nisar Barkat, the diocesan director of National Commission for Justice and Peace, recalled the time in 1985 when Bishop Joseph had established the commission. He vowed to carry forward his mission.
Joel Amir Sahotra, a minority parliamentarian, said the bishop was not just a religious leader but also a social and a political worker. “He was an expert on many political issues,” he said.
Bishop Joseph had committed suicide on May 6, 1998 to protest the death sentence awarded to Ayub Masih in a case registered under a blasphemy law. He had ended his life in front of the very court in Sahiwal that had awarded the sentence.
A large number of Christians held a special prayer for the bishop and laid a floral wreath on his grave.
John Joseph was born in Khushpur village in Samundari tehsil on November 15, 1932. He served as the Roman Catholic Bishop of Faisalabad from 1984 to 1998.
Bishop Joseph received his religious education at the Christ the King Seminary in Karachi and was ordained in Faisalabad on January 18, 1960. He also served on the faculty of the Christ the King Seminary.
Several books have been published on Bishop Joseph’s life and work. A Peaceful Struggle is a compilation of his writings on topics related to social justice and peace.
Sermons in Blood is a 110-page book written by writer Gulzar Wafa Chaudhary on the works of the bishop.
A hall has been named after Bishop Joseph in Darul Uloom Jamia Rehmania in Faisalabad. Bishop John Joseph Memorial Hall was inaugurated on March 31, 2007.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2012.