By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
AUSTRALIA (ANS – May 16, 2016) — The Primate of Australia, Archbishop Philip Freier, has increased the pressure on Pakistan over their continued detention of Pakistan Christian mother, Asia Bibi, under the country’s much criticized blasphemy laws, by writing to Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Australia, Naela Chohan, and Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, about the case.
Last month, members of the Anglican Consultative Council, meeting in the Zambian capital of Lusaka, called for a fresh investigation into her case, leading to her “honorable acquittal.” Asia Bibi was sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010, after being accused of insulting the Muslim prophet Mohammed after she took a sip from a drinking vessel before handing it to her Islamic colleagues.
“It is clear that a disgraceful application of Pakistan’s blasphemy law, 295c, has brought tragedy and shame upon [Asia Bibi] and indeed the beautiful nation of Pakistan,” Archbishop Freier later wrote on his blog, in an article republished by ACNS (http://www.anglicannews.org/comment/2016/05/free-asia-bibi.aspx_).
In his letter to Australia’s Foreign Minister, he asks Ms. Bishop to pursue justice and mercy for Asia Bibi and for the protection of the Christian minority in Pakistan. In his letter to the High Commissioner for Pakistan to Australia, he asked that Pakistan re-open Asia Bibi’s case and acquit her, and also work to protect Christians in Pakistan, who go constantly in fear of their lives and property.
“I wrote to Ms. Chohan that Pakistan and Australia share interests and values, including the priority of justice with mercy,” Archbishop Freier said. “The treatment of Asia Bibi fails this fundamental test of our shared humanity, and her continued imprisonment brings shame.”
What caused the blasphemy charge against Pakistani Christian wife and mother, Asia Bibi?
Asia was raised in Ittan Wali, a small, rural village in theSheikhupura Districtof Punjab, thirty miles outside ofLahore, and one day in 2009, she was picking berries in the sweltering heat, in a field with a group of Muslim women, who worked on the farm of Muslim landowner, Muhammad Idrees. Her family was one of only three Christian families in the village of more than 1,500 families
During this time, she was asked by some of the other women, to get some water for them from a well. On the long and dusty walk back, she took a sip of water from the vessel, and when the Muslim women discovered this they became extremely angry, and in an exchange, she told them: “Our Christ sacrificed His life on the cross for our sins…. Our Christ is alive.”
After uttering these words that she used to defend her faith against the mocking co-workers who tried to make her convert to Islam, she could never have dreamed the shocking consequences that would follow.
The Muslim women began to beat Asia. Then some men took her and locked her in a room. They announced from mosque loudspeakers that she would be punished by having her face blackened and being paraded through the village on a donkey.
“Local Christians informed the police, who took Asia into protective custody before the Muslims could carry out their plan. Christians urged the police not to file blasphemy charges, but the police claimed they had to go forward because of pressure from local Muslim leaders,” explained a Voice of the Martyrs spokesperson.
“Upon hearing this response, the Muslim women became angry and began to beat Asia. Then some men took her and locked her in a room. They announced from mosque loudspeakers that she would be punished by having her face blackened and being paraded through the village on a donkey.
“Local Christians informed the police, who took Asia into protective custody before the Muslims could carry out their plan. Christians urged the police not to file blasphemy charges, but the police claimed they had to go forward because of pressure from local Muslim leaders.”
After a lengthy trial, on Nov. 8, 2010, Asia Bibi was sentenced to death by a judge. The judge also fined Asia $1,190 (U.S.) and told her she had seven days to appeal the decision. Her attorneys filed the appeal promptly, and now wait for the Lahore High Court to rule. If the appeal is rejected, Asia would be the first woman to be lawfully executed under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. She remains in prison, waiting to hear the high court’s ruling.
But that wasn’t all. There were two shocking events related to her case:
* On Jan. 4, 2011, the governor of Punjab province, where Asia lives, was assassinated by a member of his security team. Though a Muslim, Salmaan Taseer had spoken out repeatedly in favor of a pardon for Asia Bibi and for a reexamination of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Governor Taseer also met with Asia in prison.
* On March 2, 2011, Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian member of Pakistan’s cabinet and another person who had spoken out on behalf of Asia Bibi, was also assassinated for his support of her.
The Voice of the Martyrs has supported Asia Bibi and her family since the time of her arrest. In July, 2011, VOM launched www.CallForMercy.com in an effort to gather 1,000,000 signatures from around the world asking for Asia’s release.
In Pakistan, more than 150,000 Christians have also signed a petition demanding justice for persecution victims, including Asia Bibi. Now you can join with The Voice of the Martyrs and its Pakistani brothers and sisters in a call for mercy.
“Invite your friends to visit www.CallForMercy.com and add their names to the petition as well. VOM will deliver the petition, along with the list of signers, to the Pakistani Embassy in Washington DC,” added the VOM spokesperson.
Photo captions: 1) Asia Bibi. 2) Archbishop Philip Freier. 3) Salmaan Taseer with Asia Bibi at the prison where she was fingerprinted. Many believe that this visit lead to his murder. 4) Dan Wooding recording his radio show.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and 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 nearly 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren, who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and the author or co-author of some 45 books. Dan has a radio show and two TV shows, all based in Southern California.
*** You may republish this or any of our ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net).