Free Asia Bibi! Pakistani Court Refuses Pardon for Christian Woman Sentenced to Death for Her Faith


By Deacon Keith Fournier
12/2/2010
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Blasphemy Law‘ is an instrument of oppression with which Christians and other religious believers are persecuted by Islamic supremacists.

Catholic Online has covered this story since Asia Bibi was unjustly sentenced to death for being a Christian. We have received a strong response from our readers around the globe pledging their prayer and solidarity with Asia Bibi and her family. This so called “Blasphemy Law” is an instrument of oppression with which Christians and other religious believers are persecuted by Islamic supremacists. The use of such “Blasphemy” or “Religious Defamation” laws to persecute is not confined to Pakistan. It is an affront to the fundamental human rights recognized by freedom loving people around the world and revealed in the Natural Law.

LAHORE, Pakistan (Catholic Online) – On Monday, November 29, 2010 Khawaja Sharif, the chief justice of the Lahore High Court, issued an interim order ruling that while the matter is pending before it the President of the Nation may not issue a pardon for Asia Bibi. Asia Bibi is the Christian woman sentenced to death by hanging, simply because she is a Christian. Her lawyer had filed an appeal of her unjust sentence and requested a pardon from the Office of the President. President Asif Ali Zardari had asked for a review of the facts of the case. It was widely reported that she would receive a a presidential pardon or commutation of her sentence. Now, her freedom is in further jeopardy and her family in fear for their lives.

Pope Benedict XVI and leaders from around the world have urged that this devout Christian wife and mother be freed. On November 17, 2010, at his general audience in St. Peters square, the Holy Father called the world’s attention to the plight of this contemporary Christian disciple with these words: “Over these days the international community is, with great concern, following the situation of Christians in Pakistan, who are often victims of violence or discrimination. In particular, I today express my spiritual closeness to Ms Asia Bibi and her family while asking that, as soon as possible, she may be restored to complete freedom. I also pray for people who find themselves in similar situations, that their human dignity and fundamental rights may be fully respected. ”

As news of Asia Bibi’s plight spread throughout the international media, it brought almost universal condemnation. This 45 year old wife and mother was sentenced to hanging by the neck until dead on November 8, 2010 for what amounts to simply being a Christian. The unjust sentence was rendered under Pakistan’s horrendous “Blasphemy Law”. One portion of the Penal Code under which she was sentenced reads as follows: “Use of derogatory remarks, etc; in respect of the Holy Prophet. Whoever by words, either spoken or written or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”

NBC news reported Monday that Asia Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih has, along with the couple’s children,  gone into hiding in an undisclosed Christian enclave. He is convinced that the whole family has been targeted for death at the hands of radical Islamic groups.  Militant Muslims gathered across Pakistan this weekend as news spread that the Christian woman would be pardoned or at least have her sentence commuted. At a rally led by an Islamic group called “The Movement for the Protection of the Prophet’s Honor”, a crowd of about 250 shouted “We are ready to sacrifice our life for the prophet.” 

Asked about the events which gave rise to the death sentnence he told NBC news, “She was picking berries with other women, when she was sent to get water. One of the women refused to drink the water after my wife dipped her cup into the bucket. This woman said it was contaminated because it was touched by a Christian.” According to Masih, all the women then started taunting his wife, and shouting insults against her mother and their children. Bibi just repeated the same insults back at them. “The name of the holy prophet never came up..Five days later, the local cleric came to our house, followed by an angry mob, and dragged my wife away,” he said, recalling the incident that took place in June 2009. They beat her, ripped off her clothes and accused her of insulting the prophet. Then they locked her up in a house until the police came to take her away.”

The most reliable news reports concerning this travesty have come from Asia News. It filed the following report on the demonstrations by anti-Christian Islamic radicals last weekend on November 29, 2010: “the demonstrations were organized by an association close to Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), a charitable organization that is banned by the UN because suspected of terrorist links. The chief coordinator of the JuD, Qari Yaqub, told protesters: “We will protest at the national level if the government forgives the Christian woman.”

“The head of the Sunni Ittehad Council, Sahibzada Fazal Kareem, told AsiaNews: “A pardon would lead to anarchy in the country. Our position is very clear, this punishment cannot be cancelled.” Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, deputy head of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, has warned of serious consequences if the government graces the woman, who was sentenced on 8 November 2010 for blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad. Faqir Muhammad, speaking from an undisclosed

location to an international news channel, said that the Taliban will resist any attempt to pardon Asia Bibi.

“Asia Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Maisha, speaking in Punjabi to AsiaNews said: “Asia had been very strong in prison.She is different now. She is mentally stressed. She is very scared for her life and for the life of her family”. The family home is now a single bedroom, down a side street of a Christian colony. A cheery sign hangs on the wall as a reminder of the family’s faith – “God Bless Our Home” – but the patchy whitewash, dirty beds and incessant buzz of mosquitoes reek of quiet desperation.”

Catholic Online has covered this story since Asia Bibi was unjustly sentenced to death for being a Christian. We have received a strong response from our readers around the globe pledging their prayer and solidarity with Asia Bibi and her family. This so called “Blasphemy Law” is an instrument of oppression with which Christians and other religious believers are persecuted by Islamic supremacists. The use of such “Blasphemy” or “Religious Defamation” laws to persecute is not confined to Pakistan. It is an affront to the fundamental human rights recognized by freedom loving people around the world and revealed in the Natural Law.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it clearly, “Every human person, created in the image of God, has the natural right to be recognized as a free and responsible being. All owe to each other this duty of respect. The right to the exercise of freedom, especially in moral and religious matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of the human person. This right must be recognized and protected by civil authority within the limits of the common good and public order.” (CCC #1738)

Asia Bibi must be freed and so called “Blasphemy Laws” used to suppress the free expression of religious faith in Muslim Nations must be rejected. In the face of such an obvious attack on a Christian, all those who bear the name must speak out! We join with Pope Benedict XVI and people of good will throughout the world and call for complete freedom for Asia Bibi!
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Deacon Keith Fournier asks that you join with us and help in this vital mission by sending this article to your family, friends, and neighbors and adding our link (www.catholic.org) to your own website, blog or social network. Let us broadcast, we are PROUD TO BE CATHOLIC!

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