Ashfaq Fateh, Pakistan‘s Christians and Muslims mourn the death of an icon of Christian human rights

Source:  www.assistnes.net

Date:  2013-05-03

He was one of ANS's most prolific writers providing stories about the downtrodden people of his area, especially the Christian minority

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

TOBA TEK SINGH, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Pakistani's Christians and Muslims are mourning the death of Ashfaq Fateh, 41, a courageous "model of activism" in his country, and one of ANS's most prolific writers.

Ashfaq addressing a press conference in Pakistan

In a message to ANS, his colleague, photographer, Ahsan Sadaqat, who accompanied him on many of his reporting assignments, wrote, "It is with very heavy heart that this correspondence is being sent to communicate to you about the death of Mr. Ashfaq Fateh on April 20, 2013.

"He had developed infection in his liver which gradually developed into tumor. Ashfaq Fateh was operated on February 28, 2013 in Latif Hospital, Lahore, under the supervision of surgeon, Dr. Amir Latif. The surgery initially went well but it resulted with the production of fluid around the liver. Ashfaq remained in the hospital until April 20, 2013, where he died at 9:00 am."

He added, "This is a great loss not only for Ashfaq's wife, his 6 years old daughter Rachel, his family but also for the whole team of Ravi Foundation, all the partners in the field and for the down trodden community of Toba Tek Singh. Ashfaq was a very prominent social worker who devoted all his life for the welfare and rights of the poor people."

In a story for Asia News (www.asianews.it), Shafique Khokhar, quoted Atif Jamil Pagaan, a local social worker and director of Harmony Foundation, who said that Fateh was "a model of Christian activism" like other Christian activists like Pakistani Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti who was shot dead by gunmen who ambushed his car in broad daylight in the capital Islamabad, in March 2011, and added that he has "left his mark on the map of Pakistan and pointed to a way forward."

Shafique Khokhar went on to say that the funeral took place on April 20 in Toba Tek Singh, a city in Punjab province, in front of a huge crowd made up of Christians and Muslims, from all classes and backgrounds.

ANS Correspondent Ashfaq Fateh addressing a rally of both Christians and Muslims

"His death has caused deep sorrow and participation throughout the community, which has come together in prayer to bid a final farewell to a person who was at the forefront in the struggle for the development of the Christian minority and its presence within the civil society," said Khokhar. "Many tributes were paid to his wife Salome, whom he married in 1997 and with whom he had made several trips (one of them to India), one of his many passions.

"In recent weeks, the doctors tried in every way to remove a liver tumor, but the disease was already in an advanced stage.

"However, his witness of life and faith remains. Ashfaq Fateh was passionate about media and communication, a lover of travel with a deep desire to learn languages - especially English - and improve his own cultural level."

The writer said that he was also very close to Fr. Bonnie Mendes, former Regional Coordinator for Caritas and active in social work, who guided him over the years in his spiritual formation and education. In fact, it is thanks to the priest that he drew close to the world of the media - especially television and news - and the study of English.

He added, "As a young man, Ashfaq represented Pakistan in a meeting between Catholics from around the world which was held in Caracas, Venezuela, thanks to visa obtained through the Iranian Embassy; a document that allowed him to visit Tehran, where he met with Dominican priests in the Islamic Republic.

"His memory is linked to environmental activism, the desire to strengthen inter-religious dialogue and his witness of Christian and Catholic life, which he never gave up. In his career he also directed and guided the Ravi Foundation, a nongovernmental organization that deals with the most needy, and served as teacher and principal of St. Peter High School."

Ashfaq Fateh, who studied civic and human rights, at Pakistan's leading University, the Aga Khan University in Karachi, spent many years working to promote peace, human rights and particularly for Christian's rights. He has also been working against the discriminatory laws prevailing in Pakistan.

He founded the Ravi Foundation (https://sites.google.com/site/ravifoundation), which he set up "to empower the vulnerable groups of the society including, women, children, labor, religious minorities and ensure the rights of animals in Pakistan."

Ashfaq was constantly filing stories with ANS, and one that really moved me was when he said that Pakistani Christians were praying for the safety of Americans affected last year by Hurricane Sandy.

Ashfaq Fateh's daughter, Rachel, holds up a special prayer message for those affected by the storm

Fateh said, "We have come to know that Hurricane Sandy is about to affect 60 million Americans/ It has been learnt that a state of emergency has been imposed in the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Florida and others. Sixty million is a very big population and we, the brothers and sisters in Pakistan, are worried for the situation in your country. We have been facing nonstop floods for the last three years and we can imagine how difficult it is to survive without shelter, food, medication and schooling for the young.

"So at this moment, we assure you that we shall be praying for your great people to be protected from the destruction of Hurricane Sandy." Fateh quoted Jesus as saying, "I am the vine and you are the branches," and added: "The branches from Pakistan will be continually praying for you. Please keep us informed about your safety."

And now he has gone to his reward, but in the eyes of many, including myself, he was an icon of Christian rights in the land he so loved, Pakistan. But he also cared for others around the world who were also suffering.

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