Martha Bibi, a Pakistani Christian accused of Blasphemy (an offense punishable by death) has fled to Sri Lanka with her husband and one of six children. Following an altercation with a tenant regarding an outstanding payment, Bibi was accused of blasphemy and subsequently arrested by Pakistani authorities after having been demonized by her community. The second such rescue this week, Bibi intends to seek asylum in the U.S. or Canada in the coming days. Blasphemy laws continue to be a hot-point of contention within Pakistan and the driving force behind continued criticism of the nation by international human rights and religious freedom advocates.
By Stefan J. Bos
07/01/2013 Pakistan (BosNews) — A Christian woman who potentially faced the death penalty in Pakistan for blasphemy against Islam has been moved to Sri Lanka with her husband and daughter, an official told BosNewsLife, just hours after Canada admitted it had rescued another prosecuted, mentally challenged, Christian girl.
“Martha Bibi, 47, and her Christian husband Boota Masih have arrived in Sri Lanka with their daughter. Two other daughters and three sons will come soon as well,” said the official. “They will apply for refugee status with (UN refugee agency) UNHCR, as this is the procedure,” he added. “After that they will go to Canada or the United States.”
The source, who was actively involved in the rescue operation, spoke on condition of anonymity amid security concerns including possible attacks by Islamic militants. In a separate statement the independent Rescue Christians group, which has close contacts with prosecuted Christians in Pakistan, said it had provided aid to the family.
The “persecution” of Bibi and her husband, who are entrepreneurs, began after she asked those leasing their building equipment in January 2007 to pay an outstanding bill, according to Christians familiar with the case. Those supporting her case claim she was left empty-handed and “smeared as a blasphemer, terrorized, and ultimately arrested” after she got into a fierce argument with a shop-owner near the mosque.
Though she allegedly did not mention religion in the heated exchange, the woman she argued with told her husband, identified publicly as Mohammad Ramzan, that Bibi “blasphemed” Islam’s prophet Mohammed.