He died saving 1000 at Mass

Robaird O’Cearbhaill
Hong Kong Correspondent 

In March 2015, a 20-year-old student was murdered, as he prevented a suicide bomber from killing 1000 people. He has been on the path to sainthood for a year. 

“I will die but I will not let you go in,” were Akash Bashir’s last words to the terrorist who was armed with explosives, in Lahore City, Pakistan, according to Katie Yoder, the Washington correspondent for the Catholic News Service (CNA).

The Salesian news agency, ANS, reported that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints permitted the Lahore archdiocese to open the cause for canonization as a martyr in November 2020. 

Pope Francis approved. Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore announced that Bashir was deemed by the Vatican to be a Servant of God, the second step of five, towards canonization. That was on January 31, on the feast of St John Bosco. An apt day because Bashir was studying at the city’s Don Bosco institute. He is the first Pakistani candidate for sainthood. 

Bashir was accepted as a volunteer security guard three months after applying at Lahore’s St John’s Church. The attack on the church was done on a Sunday with over a thousand Catholics inside. The Protestant Church of Christ was also assailed. The assaults cost 17 lives and injured 70, CNA reported. The numbers would have been much higher if Bashir had not prevented entry to the assassins to the crowded church. 

Bashir’s mother, Naz Bano, earlier “told Aid to the Church in Need that her son first joined the volunteer security guards at their church in November 2014,” CNA reported, adding that “all denominations were recruiting youth following the 2013 suicide bomb attack at All Saints Church in Peshawar City. 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.”

Yoder reported that: “She remembered hearing explosions the day that he died,” and recalled that  “the streets were filled with people. Hearing the second blast, I rushed with my youngest son towards the Catholic church.”

Bashir’s mother reportedly said that Akash’s brother had volunteered too to be a security guard at St John’s church. 

Terrorist group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaatul Ahrar (TTP-JA) claimed responsibility for the church attacks, the Vatican News reported.

Father Francis Gulzar, vicar general of Lahore archdiocese, responded by calling it a “great day for the Catholic Church in Pakistan,” according to the UCA News report. “He offered his life as a sacrifice to save the lives of the Christian community at St John’s Catholic Church,” the vicar general said. “He is the first Pakistani Christian who has been raised to the rank of the Holy People of God.”

Akash Bashir’s father, Bashir Emmanuel, said he did not initially know the news about his son.

“One of my sons shared that there is a special Mass at the church,” he said, UCA News reported. “This is a very big honor for us. Akash symbolizes the strength of the Christian faith in our country. I pray for the clearance of all steps to sainthood.”

(Photo courtesy of Radio Maria)