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True man of the people mourned in Pakistan

LAHORE (SE): The Church in Pakistan is mourning the death of one of his finest sons and a true man of the people, former air force pilot and human rights advocate, Cecil Chaudhry.

Chaudhry was a close friend and collaborator of the assassinated minister for minority affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, as well as an advocate for and hands on proponent of education for children from poor families and those with special needs.

He died on April 13 in Lahore after a long battle with cancer and was buried from Sacred Heart Cathedral on April 16.

As a fighter pilot for saw action in the Pakistan-India war in 1971 and was twice decorated for bravery. But he is especially remembered as an advocate for peace between the two countries. A member of several civic organisations, he was the principal of St. Anthony’s School in the grounds of Lahore cathedral and later St. Mary’s Academy in Rawalpindi.

His civic interests included the Seeds of Peace, Caritas, Catholic Board of Education, the Punjab Board of Education and the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance.

He was a vocal supporter of equality for all people and the rights of minority groups. Under the auspices of the Christian Organisation for Social Action Pakistan, he was at the head of a nationwide campaign to boycott local elections in the country between 1999 and 2001, on the basis that they were being conducted under a system of religious apartheid.

The son of legendary teacher cum photographer, F. E. Chaudhry, he was also a member of the executive of the National Council for Justice and Peace.

The chairperson of the commission, Peter Jacobs, offered condolences to his family, saying, “We believe you will continue to live up to his legacy of hard work, compassion for the marginalised and warmth for humanity, without discrimination of creed or origin.”

Bishop Rufin Anthony closed Catholic schools across the diocese of Rawalpindi and Bishop Sebastian Shaw announced a five-day mourning period in Lahore.

Born on 27 August 1941 in Dalwal, the Punjab, he studied at St Anthony’s School in Lahore, completing his education at the Forman Christian College.

In 1958, he joined the Pakistan Air Force Academy. He left the air force as a colonel in 1986 to devote his life to education and service in civic society.

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