Date: June 28, 2015
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST Ministries and the ASSIST News Service
PAKISTAN (ANS – June 28, 2015) -- British Pakistani Christians have issued a new call for the release of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian who faces the death penalty for blasphemy, six years after she was placed in prison.
She was sentenced to death in November 2010, following accusations of blasphemy from a group of Muslim women who refused to let her drink water from the same well. She has always denied the accusations. Pakistani authorities have ignored an international outcry and calls for her release.
“Six years have passed and the travesty of justice continues,” says Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), based in the UK. “For some time we have been told that there has been a moratorium on the death penalty because of pressure from Western donors, but even before this vanished at the end of last year, it has become clear that her treatment was in effect a slow death sentence by neglect and worse, all for allegedly committing a crime that should not exist—blasphemy.”
“Asia Bibi is by no means the only Christian on death row for blasphemy,” Mr Wilson added. “There are a number of others, and there are also other Christians who are in there for crimes they did not commit, and are in effect there because they are Christians. One man who had been imprisoned for over two decades from the age of 15 and who was well known to be innocent of the crime he was convicted of was executed two weeks ago.”
Pakistan-born Chowdhry said he hoped the British Government would do all it could to force Mrs. Bibi’s release.
“I call on the UK government to remonstrate with the Pakistani government in the strongest possible terms over this deadly game of bait and switch, and to free Asia Bibi and let her and her family escape to safety,” he said.
Already, the Mayor of Paris, France, has offered to take the Bibi family if Asia is released, as they realize it would be too dangerous for her to remain in Pakistan, where there have been calls for her assassination.
Earlier this month Mrs. Bibi’s family reported that the 50-year-old had been vomiting blood, according to reports from her family. Her family said she is suffering from intestinal bleeding and needs medical care. They say she is “so weak she can hardly walk.”
Some reports have even said that she is “close to death.”
Pope Francis met Asia Bibi’s family in April, saying: “I pray for Asia, for you and for all Christians who are suffering.”
Asia Bibi’s problems began on June 19, 2009, when she was picking berries with a group of Muslim women in the area of her home village, and they asked her to go to a nearby well to bring them some water. She did this and on the way back, she was so thirsty, she took a drink of the water, and when they discovered this, they accused her of being an infidel and an intense discussion began between them.
The Muslim women became angered when, during a debate about their respective faiths, she responded by telling them that Jesus is alive, adding, “Our Christ sacrificed His life on the cross for our sins…. Our Christ is alive.”
The Muslim women then began beating her and this led to a blasphemy accusation. In November 2010, Bibi was convicted under the blasphemy penal code, and sentenced to death by hanging. An appeal has been filed with the Supreme Court, but there’s no word on how soon the case will be heard.
The British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) has now launched a petition for Asia Bibi to be released, and you can sign it by going to: http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/justice4asia.
Photo captions: 1) Asia Bibi with her husband and two of her daughters. 2) Pope Francis says he is praying for Asia Bibi. 3) Pakistani Christians call for Asia's freedom. 4) Dan with his award for reporting on the persecution of Pakistani Christians.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 74, is an award-winning journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. The British Pakistani Christian Association has given Dan a special award for his reporting on the persecution of Christians in Pakistan.