Toronto: March 9, 2017. (PCP)The International Christian Voice (ICV) hosted a fundraising gala for refugee families while celebrating the life of Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti at Woodbine Banquet and Convention Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Shahbaz Bhatti Memorial Gala was organized in partnership with Weston Road Pentecostal Church and supported by lead sponsor Derek Lobo.
The purpose of this event was to highlight the plight of Pakistani Christian refugees around the world, specifically in Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia, and to raise money to sponsor at least one of the most deserving refugee families to bring to Canada. This occasion also marked the sixth death anniversary of Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti who gave his life for the cause of human rights and religious freedom in Pakistan.
The fundraiser was well attended by government dignitaries, religious leaders, and members of the community who are passionate about human rights issues. They included Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Hon. Ahmed Hussen, Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario Patrick Brown, Mayor of Mississauga Bonnie Crombie, Deputy Mayor of Toronto Vincent Crisanti, M.P. Ruby Sahota, M.P. Omar Alghabra, M.P. Iqra Khalid, M.P. Ramesh Sangha, M.P. David Sweet, M.P.P. Mike Colle, Toronto City Councillor Michael Ford,
The event commenced with an introduction of the programs Master of Ceremonies, Dr. Colin Saldhana. Dr. Saldhana welcomed everyone in attendance and thanked them all for their generous support to ICV’s initiative in helping the helpless.
Pastor Jonathan Manna, Lead Pastor of Weston Road Pentecostal Church said the opening prayer.
The Canadian national anthem was sung by Ms. Sheeza Sabir. Msgr. Keenan gave the Grace before Meal and dinner was served.
Welcoming remarks were given by Vincent Crisanti, Toronto Deputy Mayor and City Councillor, who highlighted the importance of not only commemorating the life of an extraordinary leader, Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti, but in carrying forward his legacy in assisting families out of a life of oppression and despair into a life of freedom and hope. He extended his best wishes and support to ICV in reaching their goal to sponsor refugee families.
A video presentation provided by Mr. Tahir Gora from Tag TV was then shown which highlighted the life and legacy of Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti.
ICV Chairman Peter Bhatti while addressing the audience spoke of his brother Shahbaz’s dedication to his cause and shed light on his life’s initiative. He then briefed the audience on the story of the family that ICV is fundraising to sponsor, speaking from firsthand experience of their desperation and need of assistance. Mr. Bhatti went on to present a petition with 1200 signatures to Minister Hussen asking for the Canadian government’s help in bringing deserving Pakistani refugee families out of Thailand and into Canada.
Following Mr. Bhatti’s speech, Minister Hussen took the stage to acknowledge and applaud the initiative ICV has taken in assisting refugee families in coming to Canada. He spoke of his enthusiasm in working towards this cause and highlighted Canada’s commitment to build on its immigration system and on ensuring the positive integration of newcomers to Canada.
Members of Parliament Ruby Sahota and Omar Alghabra then addressed the crowd. M.P. Sahota read out a message from the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, who commended the sacrifice of Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti and extended his best wishes to ICV “for every success in reaching [their] fundraising objective”.
There was pleasant entertainment provided throughout the course of the evening by Ms. Alpha Pasqual who sang solo and also performed a duet with Allan. Mr. Kaleem Zaman further serenaded the crowd with a Pakistani classic.
Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown spoke on the life and dedication of Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti and commended ICV for continuing his legacy. He also reaffirmed Canada’s dedication to not only “tolerate differences but to celebrate them” with equality for Canadians from all walks of life.
MPP Mike Colle congratulated ICV on their humanitarian efforts and praised their “dedication and generosity in continuing the legacy to sponsor refugee families”.
M.P. Ramesh Sharma extended his greetings to the fundraiser’s attendees and thanked ICV for carrying forward the important mission left behind by Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti.
M.P. David Sweet spoke on a personal level of the dedication of Shahbaz Bhatti, having met him in Ottawa, and stressed the importance of carrying forward his legacy. Mr. Sweet also pointed out the establishment of Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom which was inspired by the life and sacrifice of Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti. He congratulated ICV on their fundraising success.
In closing, ICV Chairman Peter Bhatti thanked all community leaders, sponsors, and supporters for the great success of the fundraiser.
International Christian Voice is proud to announce that we have succeeded in reaching our fundraising goals and have raised more than our initial target through this gala. Approximately $38,000 was raised through the support of everyone in attendance and all our generous sponsors and supporters.