The Asia Bibi case of a Christian mother sentenced to death or “blasphemy” in Pakistan has been going on for years while she has languished on death row. As she has recently submitted an appeal for her case, Christians have been praying while Muslims have been protesting and declared that she will never be forgiven lest she converts to Islam:
After an annoucement that Asia Bibi’s Pakistan’s most famous blasphemy law victim would have her appeal heard on Monday, Pakistani Christians began praying with hope that Asia Bibi will be released and granted asylum in a western country. This is despite the concerns they have about rioting and a Muslim backlash a common for of suffering they have endured in the past. They are watching and praying for a peaceful resolution
Meanwhile Christian NGO’s are demanding that the Government of Pakistan must provide adequate protection for Asia Bibi, her family and Christian communities country-wide. They fear the widespread hatred she faces from Muslims in Pakistan will lead to severe rioting, attempts to kill her and persecute other Christians, all of which has occured previously
BPCA Outreach Officer Leighton Medley, who is in Pakistan on his 6 monthly mission has told us that many churches in Lahore, particularly in Bahar Colony, have declared a day of fasting and prayer as Christian communities seek justice for Asia Bibi. He tells us that many were praying throughout the churches, asking for the final release of this innocent woman and the end of this sordid chapter in Pakistan’s history. He described the heightened emotion in the country, saying:
“All around Pakistan and even many parts of the world, the sense of anticipation of tomorrow’s events regarding Asia Bibi’s final appeal hearing are now at fever pitch. There is a sense here in Pakistan that once again, battle lines are being drawn. The battle between those who support hatred and intolerance and those who fight for peace and justice.
“There is no doubt, that as they enter that courtroom tomorrow, you will be able to cut the atmosphere with a knife. There will be protests on both sides and you can bet there will be trouble ahead.”
Leighton spends time encouraging Christians to respond peacefully , and take to take in acting in a peaceful way, proclaiming non-violence the way that Jesus Christ did. He continued:
“We must have faith that God can intervene in this situation and this mountain will be removed, it is very much like going into the lion’s den.
“It truly is D-Day for Asia, this is the final countdown and we will soon know whether the extremists win or lose. And whether there will be peace and justice in Pakistan or just more hatred, prejudice and intolerance which sadly has come to typify Pakistan today.”
Meanwhile Muslims in a WhatsApp group named “Lahore Group” punctuated by a Pakistani flag and crossing swords are calling for riots following the appeal to make sure that Asia Bibi is punished for blasphemy.
A summary of the What’s App Message forwarded to us reads:
“Apparently a Muslim man is provoking other Muslim fellows to spread this message as much as they can on social media that Asia Bibi should be punished for committing Blasphemy and that the Muslim community has to play their role in doing this. They are a creating an alert for after tomorrow’s hearing.”
A video of a Muslim man watching the red-backed news story with Urdu lettering about Asia Bibi’s appeal to the Supreme Court and his response to the occasion is most telling as with widened eyes he sincerely laments:
“Imran Khan may want to forgive Asia Bibi for blasphemy, but she should never be forgiven! Please share this news with everyone you know.”
Pak-Christians carry the weight of their vulnerability, but this leaves those resident Muslims who may have concern about the blasphemy laws less likely to speak up for the human right concerns that have particularly precipitated from Asia Bibi’s case, especially when even high ranking officials do not appear to be safe from the wrath of Islamists.
Pakistani politicians who have attempted to speak up for Asia Bibi in the past have done so at great personal risk and this case has lead to the assasination of some brave Pakistani patriots including former Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti and former Governor for Punjab Salman Taseer.
In this “Lahore Group” a Muslim man provokes other Muslims to spread the message on social media and to “punish Asia Bibi”. This begs the question are there groups in other cities preparing to riot? We at BPCA hope the government is taking measure to prevent the violence that is being planned in full view and have penned a letter of appeal to officials that we have posted as an appendix to this article. This letter was a goodwill appeal for protection of Christian communities, clemency for Asia Bibi, and expression of our desire for peace.
Asia Bibi has been in prison longer than anyone else convicted of blasphemy and if she loses her 8th October appeal she could be the first person executed by the State unless Prime Minister Imran Khan gives her clemency.
This mother of five has had suffered isolation, and considerable emotional distress during that time. he idea that she has not been punished enough adequately is appalling and using an act of mercy to promote violence must be considerable distressing for anyone with even one ounce of compassion. Riots are opportunistic excuse to harm others who has nothing to do with the original incident and procure guilt by association such as when a violent mob threatened to set a Christian community alight causing thousand families to flee. (source)