The Christian community of Pakistan gathered for a historic event: the official start of the Diocesan Inquiry for the Cause of Beatification and Canonization of the Servant of God, Akash Bashir, a past pupil of Don Bosco, the first Pakistani citizen in the process of Beatification and Canonization. The Sacred Heart Cathedral in the city of Lahore could not contain the crowd of faithful who gathered for the opening ceremony of the diocesan phase, as well as for the solemn Eucharistic celebration.

March 15, 2015, is now remembered not as a day of mourning and suffering, but rather as a gift from God, the gift of the martyrdom of Akash Bashir, a 20-year-old who demonstrated to the world the power of service and the incalculable value of faith. March 15 is now a day of joy, unity, prayer, and hope for the Christian minority in Pakistan.

Akash Bashir, a Pakistani national, on March 15, 2015, sacrificed himself to prevent a suicide bomber from causing a massacre at St. John’s Church in Youhanabad, a Christian neighborhood in Lahore, Pakistan. Akash Bashir was 20 years old, had studied at Don Bosco Technical Institute in Lahore, and had become a security volunteer.

On that tragic March 15, like every Sunday, he was working his shift. He was in charge, specifically, of overseeing security at the entrance to St. John’s Church. While on duty, news came to him that the Church of Christ, an Anglican church located 500 meters away, had been attacked by terrorists. Akash was trying to secure the area in front of St. John’s Church when he saw a man running towards the building. This man, a terrorist, was intent on committing another massacre. Akash stood in front of him, trying to block him. The man threatened him, claiming to have a bomb with him, but Akash was not intimidated. He embraced the terrorist to prevent him from entering the church. The bomber blew himself up, resulting in the death of Akash and two other people. With his sacrifice, Akash saved the lives of over one hundred people.

His courageous act still inspires Pakistani Catholics in their daily walk and motivates them not to be discouraged in front of the many challenges and persecutions they still have to face. The shining example of Akash Bashir, a Salesian alumnus, continues to spread throughout the world. He embodied the words of Jesus: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).