By BosNewsLife Asia Service
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– Christian rights activists and church leaders say they are saddened that Christian Pakistani human rights activist and retired fighter pilot Cecil Chaudhry has passed away after losing his battle with lung cancer. He was 70.
Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry, a Catholic, had a distinguished career in the Pakistani Air Force, “and became a decorated war hero who was respected by Pakistanis of all faiths,” including Christians, said Britain-based advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) in a statement.
Minority Christians have been targeted by Islamic extremists and several are known to have been jailed in Pakistan on charges of blasphemy against Islam.
Chaudhry, who died April 13 in the city of Lahore’s Combined Military Hospital, was “a human rights activist who fought over many years for the rights of all minorities in Pakistan,” added CSW in remarks BosNewsLife published Saturday, April 21.
He was also the headmaster of two prestigious Catholic schools, the St. Anthony College in Lahore, and then St. Mary’s College in Rawalpindi, church officials said.
Chaudhry was reportedly a close supporter of Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian government minister who was killed last year after publicly opposing Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy legislation and protesting the death sentence for Asia Bibi, a Catholic mother sentenced on charges of “insulting” Islam.
Joseph Coutts, the Catholic archbishop of Karachi and president of the Episcopal Conference, said in published remarks that with his work in both the army and human rights he had been “showing that Christians can and want to be for the country.”
He said he “was a man respected and loved by everyone who, as a Catholic citizen, gave a very high contribution to Pakistan…”
CSW’s Special Ambassador, Stuart Windsor, told BosNewsLife he had known Cecil for over fifteen years.
“We are deeply saddened by this news. Cecil was a true gentleman of courage, dedication and integrity” in Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim nation, he said.
“He was a source of inspiration to many both in Pakistan and around the world. He will be greatly missed.”
Chaundhry had been known to CSW and its supporters in Britain. “We would like to assure his family of our prayers, support and love during this difficult and painful time,” Windsor said. (With reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).
He was a ray of hope, support and encouragement for the youth and young Christian leadership in the Catholic Church in Pakistan.