Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, was sentenced to death for ‘blasphemy’ against the Islamic prophet Muhammad. On November 22nd, the president pardoned Asia and she has been moved to an undisclosed location for her safety.
Last week, we posted an update that Asia has been released. While some of our sources still insist that she has been released, the government has denied it. The latest report is that the President will not be able to pardon Asia until the Lahore High Court has reached a decision on Asia’s appeal. Please see the updated press release at the top of the page for the full details.
Asia Bibi’s Story
Asia Bibi, 45, is a married mother of four girls and a boy. Her son is Imran, 19, and her daughters are: Sidra, 15, Isha, 11, and Isham, 9. Her eldest daughter is 20. They live in a small Pakistani village called Ittan Wali Chack. Since their family is very poor, Asia worked as a laborer on a farm. Her son, Imran, works at a brick kiln and her daughter, Sidra, does embroidery work at home.
On June 14, 2009, Asia Bibi was working on a farm with her Muslim colleagues when a discussion about Christianity and Islam arose. During the conversation, the Muslims accused Asia of insulting the prophet Muhammad and beat her. Her Muslim colleagues then spread the rumor that Asia ‘insulted’ their prophet around the village. Five days later, a group of Muslim villagers, incited by her colleagues, severely assaulted Asia. When the police arrived, they arrested Asia and registered a case of blasphemy against her. According to Article 295-C of Pakistan’s criminal law, it is a crime punishable by death to blaspheme the Muslim prophet Muhammad.
On November 7, 2010, after more than a year of trial, a court in Pakistan sentenced Asia to death and fined her 100,000 Pakistani Rupees ($1163.) She had seven days to appeal the decision to the higher court.
Asia Bibi is still in jail and faces the death penalty. Pakistan has turned deaf ears to the calls by the international community for Asia’s release. For the past three months, she has been kept in solitary confinement and she is now suffering from small pox due to the unsanitary prison environment, according to a report by Christian Today.
Despite all her trials, Asia has been steadfast in her faith. She spends her time by fasting and praying for her release. She also prays for Pakistan and its people.
Pakistan’s blasphemy law, under which Asia was sentenced to death, has been criticized by some of Pakistan’s high ranking government officials. But those who criticize the law and call for the release of Asia Bibi have become targets of Islamic radicals.
Shahbaz Bhatti, the sole Christian minister in the government of Pakistan, was assassinated on March 2, 2011. On January 4, the governor of Punjab and one of Asia’s defenders, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by his own bodyguard. The bodyguard, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, killed Taseer for criticizing Pakistan’s blasphemy law. Another Pakistani government official, Sherry Rehman, now lives in fear for her life after criticizing the blasphemy law.
Please continue praying for Asia Bibi’s release and for the persecuted Christians in Pakistan.
UPDATE: February 1, 2011:
Asia Bibi remains behind bars and faces the death penalty for “blasphemy.” The governor of Punjab and her defender, Salman Taseer, was assassinated on January 4 by his own bodyguard. The bodyguard, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, killed Taseer for criticizing Pakistan’s blasphemy law. The Associated Press (AP) reported that the governor’s killer was given a hero’s welcome when he appeared before court.
Before the assassination, Taseer had appeared on TV calling for Asia’s pardon.
According to a report by Compass Direct News, Asia Bibi is living in constant fear for her life after the assassination of the governor. “The governor’s murder in broad daylight has put her in a state of paranoia,” said Asia’s husband, Ashiq Masih, in the statement to the Compass Direct News.
He further noted, “She knows the Muslims have announced a prize on her head and would go to any lengths to kill her.” A radical cleric has promised a reward of 500,000 Pakistani rupees ($5,800) to anyone who kills her. Muslim radicals have even threatened suicide bomb attacks on the prison where Asia is being held. As of the end of January, Asia has been moved into an isolation cell for her protection.
Speaking to Compass Direct News, her husband said that Asia wants everyone to pray for her. Would you take a moment to pray for this brave woman?