“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
On March 15, 2015, a suicide bomber associated with the terrorist group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaatul Ahrar (TTP-JA) approached St. John Catholic Church in Lahore, Pakistan. In his path, blocking his entrance to the church, stood Akash Bashir, a 20-year-old who volunteered to provide security to the Christian community in Lahore.
Bashir refused to step aside. “I will die but I will not let you go in,” he told the bomber. The bomber set off the bomb where he was, killing himself, Bahir and two others. Without question, many more would have died had Bashir moved aside and allowed the terrorist into the church. Because of his courage, he has been hailed as a hero among the Christians in Pakistan and across the world among those who know his story.
Seven years after Bashir’s heroic martyrdom, on January 31, 2022, Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore announced that the Catholic Church has named Akash Bashir a Servant of God, representing the opening of his cause for canonization. Bashir is the first Pakistani to be recognized as a Servant of God. Bashir was an alumnus of the Don Bosco Technical Institute. The announcement of his being named a Servant of God was made on the feast of St. John Bosco.
Bashir’s mother, Naz Bano, said her son became a security volunteer in November 2014. “All denominations were recruiting youth following the 2013 suicide bomb attack at All Saints Church in Peshawar City,” Bano explained. “Akash used to discuss it with his friends and kept insisting for three months that he wanted to guard the church. He was ready to sacrifice his life if God gave him a chance to protect others.” She heard the blast the day her son died. “The streets were filled with people,” she said. “Hearing the second blast, I rushed with my youngest son towards the Catholic Church. … I was searching for Akash among the boys standing near the church gate. But he was lying down in the dirt. His right arm was almost ripped off. I could not believe my eyes.” Bano said that another of her sons, Arsalan, now serves as a security guard, wanting to take his brother’s place. “We did not stop him. We cannot prevent our sons from serving the Church. It is their choice.”
Archbishop Shaw spoke of Bashir: “We praise and thank God for this brave young man, who could have escaped or tried to save himself, but he remained steadfast in his faith and did not let the suicide bomber enter the church. He gave himself to save more than a thousand people present in the church for Sunday Mass.”
Archbishop Shaw continued: “Akash was on duty at the church entrance gate on March 15, 2015, when he spotted a man who wanted to enter the church with an explosive belt on his body. Akash blocked him at the entrance gate, foiling the terrorist’s plan to massacre those inside the church.” At the same time, another suicide bomber struck nearby Christ Church. A total of 17 were killed that day and 70 others injured.
Bashir Emmanuel, Akash’s father, reported that one of his sons informed him that there was to be a special Mass at the church to make the announcement. “This is a very big honor for us,” Emmanuel said. “Akash symbolizes the strength of the Christian faith in our country. I pray for the clearance of all steps to sainthood.”
Akash Bashir’s mother put it simply: “Our happiness is greater than our grief. He was a simple boy who died in the path of the Lord and saved the priest and worshippers. People love him. Akash is already our saint.”
Akash Bashir, pray for us.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.