Pakistan: Whether for show or for hope, Asia Bibi offered honorary citizenship

Source:            www.MNNonline.org

Date:                March 26, 2015

 

(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs USA)

(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs USA)

Pakistan (MNN) — The mayor of France’s capital city has awarded Asia Bibi an honorary citizenship. The Council of Paris agreed to recognize the Pakistani Christian woman as a defender of human rights.

Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA, says Asia Bibi, a wife and mother, used these words to defend her faith against mocking co-workers who tried to make her convert to Islam. “‘Mohamed is dead, but Jesus is still alive.’ That’s what led to this blasphemy charge.” She was arrested by police on June 19, 2009.

In November 2010, a judge at the court in Punjab fined her $1,100 and sentenced her to death by hanging. With the verdict, she became the first woman condemned to death in Pakistan on blasphemy charges. She appealed the verdict. The Lahore High Court dismissed Bibi’s appeal and upheld her death sentence on October 16, 2014. Her lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court. “The hope really is that the Supreme Court, as they have done in some previous cases, will say, ‘After looking at this, there’s really not evidence to back up this verdict’ and she’ll be released.”

(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs Canada)  Asia Bibi's husband

(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs Canada) Asia Bibi’s husband

Nettleton says, in the best-case scenario, Bibi has her freedom. However, “At that point then, the question becomes: ‘Can she live safely outside of prison in Pakistan?’ There have been threats against her life, there has been a price put on her head by radical Muslims there.” Nettleton goes on to say that she’ll need asylum. “She likely would find a safe haven here in the United States. It’s likely that now, Paris and France would open the door to her. I believe Canada would also open the door to her.”

It’s conjecture though. The reality is: Asia Bibi is on death row for a blasphemy conviction. Asked how this penal code impacts Gospel work, Nettleton says, “I think anybody who goes to their friend with the Gospel message, anybody who pulls out the New Testament and wants to offer the plan of salvation, they know that there’s a risk to that.” There is a vibrant church though, he says. As for prayer support, “We want to pray for those who are bringing these charges, and those in the government of Pakistan that are Muslims, that they will have an encounter with Jesus Christ.”

The question now is: when is the Supreme Court going to do anything? Nettleton says, “Our contacts in Pakistan have said that it could be months, it could be years before the Supreme Court hears the case. There really is no way to predict or know what to expect from the legal process now other than just play the waiting game.”

Asked if it was feasible to overturn the blasphemy law altogether, Nettleton responded, “That’s another question I asked at the [Pakistan] embassy [in Washington, DC]: “What are the chances of the blasphemy law being amended or changed?’ Again, our friend said, ‘That’s not likely to happen.'” Until then, Bibi’s family continues to live without their wife and mother.

(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs USA)

(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs USA)

The Voice of the Martyrs has supported Asia Bibi and her family since the time of her arrest. In July, 2011, VOM launched www.CallForMercy.com in an effort to gather 1,000,000 signatures from around the world asking for Asia’s release. Nettleton says, “Voice of the Martyrs has been raising Asia Bibi’s case. We have had a petition ongoing at CallForMercy.com. We’re now almost up to 700,000 signatures.” He hand-delivered the petition last week to the Pakistan Embassy in Washington, D.C.

There’s still more than can be done. You can join with The Voice of the Martyrs and our Pakistani brothers and sisters in a call for mercy. Click here for your opportunity to make your voice heard.

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