A memorial for Akash Bashir in front of St. John Catholic Church in Youhanabad, Lahore. Bashir stopped a suicide bomber from entering the church and died when the terrorist detonated his bomb. Bashir's act saved the lives of many people who were inside the church at the time. (Photo by ucanews.com)
A young man killed while preventing a suicide bomber from entering a crowded church should be considered for canonization, according to Catholics marking the anniversary of a deadly terrorist attack carried out in Lahore on March 15 last year.
Volunteer security guard Akash Bashir, 20, stopped the suicide bomber from entering St. John's Catholic Church and tackled him while being aware that the terrorist wore a bomb vest.
The attacker — from a Taliban splinter group — detonated the bomb, killing himself and Bashir outside the church.
Father Francis Gulzar, the parish priest, said the first anniversary of the terrorist attack on two churches in the Youhanabad area of Lahore marks the beginning of a movement to seek sainthood for Bashir. "Akash is our hero; his bravery saved more than 2,000 people inside the church," said Father Gulzar. "He has inspired local Christian youth and now many are joining the church's security," he said.
Bashir was one of at least 15 people who died in the attacks and more than 70 were wounded. The other site simultaneously attacked was a nearby Protestant church. Currently 42 Christians remain in jail over the lynching of two Muslims who were suspected of being involved in the attacks.
About 3,000 people attended Mass on March 13 for the first anniversary of the Lahore church bombings. (Photo by ucanews.com)
Mass held to remember attack victims
Under tight police security, Archbishop Sebastian Shah of Lahore and seven priests conducted a Mass on March 13 in the memory of victims of last year's terror attack.
"We are proud of our brave son who lived a short but meaningful life," Archbishop Shah told ucanews.com.
"It was the result of his spiritual passion and the teachings of Bible," said the archbishop.
"Prevalent indifference in society has led to terrorism," he said. "With mercy in their hearts, Christians can offer a different face of Pakistan."
At the anniversary, Bashir's parents helped launch "Unforgettable Sacrifice" a booklet about their son's sacrifice that includes eyewitness accounts of his death.
Father Gulzar said the booklet would help document the life of the country's potential first saint.
"We have just begun the movement at grassroots level," Father Gulzar said.
Special prayers cards for Bashir were also distributed during the Mass and were read aloud by the congregation.