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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Send an email -- and encourage imprisoned Asia Bibi

By Michael Ireland
Senior International Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

SOUTH AFRICA (ANS) -- South African Christians are rallying behind a Pakistani Christian mother of five who is in prison awaiting her appeal against a death sentence for blasphemy.

So far, 100 encouraging emails were sent from South Africans to Asia Bibi, as part of a campaign to send 1,000 emails.

Asia Bibi

Asia Bibi is reportedly in “good spirits” -- even after spending her third Christmas in prison separated from her family since her arrest in June 2009. She was imprisoned after she was falsely accused of insulting the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

Andre Viljoen,writing for http://gatewaynews.co.za  , the South African News Portal, says the email campaign organizers, In Context Ministries (incontextwebs.com) , have now issued an appeal to more South African Christians to urgently support the letter-writing effort.

The emails are being sent in batches of 100 to one of the legal assistants of Asia Bibi.

On receipt of the first batch, which was sent on Monday (January 9), the legal assistant said: “I am really touched.. this is amazing… I am printing this. I will personally take these emails to the family and one copy to Asia Bibi and will read these emails to her. This will be a great encouragement. “

In Context Ministries urges local Christians to “use three minutes of your freedom for our sister in Pakistan” and provides the following guidelines on how to participate in the email project:
Step 1 – write a short email where you express your prayer on paper. Add a word of encouragement, a Scripture, your name and country of residence (no street address). Get your children to write messages as well, especially to the children of Asia
Step 2 – Email the message to mike@incontextministries.org  
Step 3 – Forward this request to as many friends as possible. Make this your project!

In Context ministries summarized Bibi’s plight on its website as follows: In June 2009, Asia Noreen, better known as Asia Bibi, a farm hand from the village of Ittan Wali in Sheikhupura District, was asked to fetch water; she complied, but some of her Muslim fellow workers refused to drink the water as they considered Christians to be “unclean.” Some arguments ensued and some co-workers falsely accused her to a cleric of making derogatory comments about Prophet Muhammad. A mob came to her house, beating her and members of her family before she was rescued by the police. However, the police initiated an investigation about her remarks, resulting in her arrest and prosecution under Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code. She spent more than a year in jail and in November 2010 Muhammed Naveed Iqbal, judge at the court of Sheikhupura, Punjab, sentenced her to death by hanging. Additionally, a fine of an equivalent of $1,100 was imposed. Noreen’s husband, Aashiq Fauji Masih, 51 years old, plans to appeal the verdict, which has to be upheld by the Lahore High Court.

A team from the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), an interdenominational organization working for Christians who are being persecuted because of their faith in Pakistan,visited Bibi along with her husband on Christmas Eve. In a report after their visit they said that despite being in prison for so long and the remaining uncertainty about whether her death sentence for blasphemy will be overturned, Asia’s faith remains strong.

“The grace of God is with me and I am happy in God and always will be happy in God,” she said.

“I am daily praying for my country and praying to God that the Lord may protect Pakistan from all harm. I am especially praying for those who are giving a bad image of Pakistan in the world and am also praying for those who falsely implicate me, that the Lord gives them wisdom so that they may not implicate the innocents in such cases.”

Bibi said she was saddened by the murders of Governor Salman Taseer and Minority Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who spoke out on the misuse of the blasphemy law and tried to protect her. She also pleaded with the international media to report accurately on her imprisonment as false reports about her health and other aspects of her imprisonment have “hurt” her. At the same time, she encouraged people to continue praying for her.

“I am thankful for those who are praying for me and my family,” she said. “Please continue your prayers because I need your prayers. By the grace of Almighty God I am alright and praying for my safe exit from the false blasphemy charges.”

She added: “I want to wish a merry Christmas and very happy, prosperous and peaceful New Year to my fellow citizens as well as brothers and sisters internationally.

“I am satisfied with the security arrangements provided me by the jail authority and am also praying for them.”

CLAAS UK Coordinator Nasir Saeed said: “Asia Bibi continues to demonstrate remarkable strength of spirit despite the challenges she faces in overturning the death sentence handed to her for blasphemy. We see in her plight the very real suffering that the unjust application of the law is causing for Pakistan’s Christians. What 2012 holds for Asia is difficult to say at this point.

“We continue to pray for a miracle for her and all other blasphemy prisoners. In the long-term, however, the only way to secure real and lasting change for Christians is reform of the blasphemy law and we will be campaigning hard for this throughout the year.”

More information about the 3 minutes of freedom email project and Bibi’s case history and circumstances is available on the In Context Ministries website -- incontext.webs.com, which will publish a daily update on the number of emails received.


** Michael Ireland is the Senior International Correspondent for ANS. He is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB UK, a British Christian radio station. While in the UK, Michael traveled to Canada and the United States, Albania,Yugoslavia, Holland, Germany,and Czechoslovakia. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China,and Russia. Michael's volunteer involvement with ASSIST News Service is a sponsored ministry department -- 'Michael Ireland Media Missionary' (MIMM) -- of A.C.T. International of P.O.Box 1649, Brentwood, TN 37024-1649, at: Artists in Christian Testimony (A.C.T.) International where you can make a donation online under 'Donate' tab, then look for 'Michael Ireland Media Missionary' under 'Donation Category' to support his stated mission of 'Truth Through Christian Journalism.' Michael is a member in good standing of the National Writers Union, Society of Professional Journalists, Religion Newswriters Association, Evangelical Press Association and International Press Association. If you have a news or feature story idea for Michael, please contact him at: ANS Senior International Reporter

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