By Dan Wooding, Founder of the ASSIST News Service
PUNJAB PROVINCE, PAKISTAN (ANS – December 9, 2017) — Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian mother-of-five who was found guilty in 2010 of blasphemy for standing up for Jesus and sentenced to death, faces another lonely Christmas in her “death row” cell.
While many of us will be enjoying fellowship and food on Christmas Day, for the birthday of Jesus, she will spend it in solitary confinement in an 8-by-10-foot cell without windows, and she will even have to cook her own Christmas meal because of fears that others may try to poison her food.
Asia will be away from her husband, Ashiq Masih, and her children, and again will wonder what the New Year has in store for her, especially as the most recent appeal against her sentenced was abandoned back in October when one of Supreme Court judges picked to hear her case, suddenly withdrew from it, left the court, and resigned.
Asia Bibi’s nightmare began back in June of 2009, when she was harvesting falsa berries with a group of mainly Muslim women farmhands in a field in Sheikhupura in Punjab Province. She was asked at one point to fetch water from a nearby well; to which she complied, but stopped to take a drink with an old metal cup that she had found lying next to the well.
A neighbor of Asia, who had allegedly been involved in a running feud with her family about some property damage, saw her and angrily told her that it was forbidden for a Christian to drink water from the same utensil from which Muslims drank, and some of the other workers considered her to be “unclean” because she was a Christian.
Some arguments ensued and Asia recounts that when they made derogatory statements about her strongly-held Christian faith, she responded by telling them, “I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Mohammad ever do to save mankind?”
This incensed the women, and later, some of the workers complained to a local Islamic cleric claiming that she had insulted Muhammad and soon an angry mob came to her house, beating her and members of her family before she was rescued by the police. One report even alleged that she was gang-raped for her alleged crime of blasphemy, was been beaten all the way home, and then her children were later sexually molested.
The police initiated an investigation about her remarks, which resulted in her arrest under Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code. She subsequently was imprisoned for over a year upon the demands of the local Iman, before being formally charged under Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws. Asia Bibi has now been incarcerated since June 2009.
Ms. Bibi denied that she had committed blasphemy and said that she had been accused by her neighbor to “settle an old score”. In November 2010, a judge at the court of Sheikhupura, sentenced her to death by hanging. Additionally, a fine of the equivalent of $1,100 was imposed. With the verdict, she became the first woman condemned to death in Pakistan on blasphemy charges.
In December 2010, a month after her conviction, a Muslim cleric announced a 500,000 Pakistani rupee award (the equivalent of $10,000) to anyone who would kill her. One survey reported that around 10 million Pakistanis had said that they would be willing to personally kill her out of either religious conviction or for the reward. Others have gathered in the streets of several town chanting “kill her, kill her.”
Asia’s family has received threats and has gone into hiding. Ashiq, her husband, stated that he was afraid to let their children go outside. He also expressed concern about how his wife would be kept safe should she be released, saying, “No one will let her live. The mullahs are saying they will kill her when she comes out.” Her family declined to leave the country while she remained in prison, but Italy, France, and Spain all offered to grant her and her family asylum in the event of her release.
Two prominent Pakistani leaders, Salmaan Taseer, the then governor of Punjab, and Shahbaz Bhatti, were both murdered for supporting Asia Bibi.
She is still awaiting for her appeal against the death sentence to be heard, but there is no indication of when that might be.
So this Christmas, would join with me in praying for Asia Bibi and her family, and also would you consider letting your local politicians know of her plight, so they can take action.
We at ANS pledge to continue to bring you vital updates on this travesty of a case, and also of the many others who, like Asia Bibi, who will have a lonely Christmas, particularly in the refugee camps of the Middle East, or in the prisons in Iran.
Very soon, on Tuesday, December 19, 2017, I will celebrate my 77th birthday, and, despite feeling my age, I believe that God wants me to continue with our news service. We are all volunteers, meaning we don’t receive a regular salary, and so we depend on friends like you to support us as you are able.
If you value our journalism, would you consider a generous end-of-the year donation so that we can continue our work for the Kingdom? Your gift will make a tremendous difference what we are able to do and would be deeply appreciated.
It’s very simple, yet can make such a difference. Just go to www.assistnews.net and scroll down to where it says DONATE TO ASSIST NEWS and put in your amount there. If you prefer a check, just make it out to ASSIST and mail it to: PO Box 609, Lake Forest, CA 92609, USA. (All gifts in the US are tax-deductible).
Again, please pray for Asia Bibi and her family, and also for all of our many Christian brothers and sisters who are suffering untold violence for following Jesus Christ, and I also thank you in advance for your donation, which will allow us to continue to bring you their stories.
Photo captions: 1) Asia Bibi. 2) Muslims who want to hang Asia Bibi. 3) Salmaan Taseer, the then governor of Punjab who was later killed for supporting Ms. Bibi. He is seen here as she is being finger printed. 4) Norma and Dan Wooding.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 76, 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 more than 54 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder of the ASSIST News Service (ANS) and he hosts a weekly radio show and two TV shows, all based in in Southern California. Dan is the author of numerous books, the latest of which is a novel called Mary, My Story from Bethlehem to Calvary, which tells the story of Jesus through the eyes of his beloved mother, Mary. Dan believes it would make an excellent Christmas gift for a friend or family member, and you can find out more about it by going to: http://marythebook.com/.
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