On Nov. 8, 2010 Asia Bibi was the first woman to be sentenced to death by hanging under Pakistan’s blasphemy law. (Please watch the 3 minute CNN video here.) Asia Bibi was arrested on June 19, 2009, after she engaged in an intense discussion with a group of women who worked with her. Answering their calls for her to accept Islam, Asia told them Jesus is alive, but Mohammad is dead. “Our Christ is the true prophet of God,” she reportedly told them, “and yours is not true.” Upon hearing this, the Muslim women became angry and began to beat Asia, who was taken into police custody and then later condemned to die.
In the weeks after, there was an enormous international outcry denouncing the blasphemy law. Since then, there have be several troubling developments we want you to be aware of so you can pray accordingly.
Sherry Rehman, the People’s Party parliamentarian who submitted a bill to amend the blasphemy law, has been receiving death threats from Islamic radicals. The bill was withdrawn last month after the Pakistan Prime Minister announced that the government would not amend the law.
Salman Taseer, the former Governor of Punjab Province and advocate of Asia Bibi, was assassinated on Jan. 4 by his personal bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri. Taseer had been commissioned by President Asif Ali Zardari to conduct a ministerial review of Asia Bibi’s case. He found the verdict unsound and recommended a presidential pardon. Qadri, who openly confessed to killing Taseer, told authorities he was angered by Taseer’s support for the proposed amendment to the blasphemy law and for Asia Bibi. Qadri was hailed a hero by his supporters, including a number of lawyers, who showered him with rose petals at his first court appearance.
Shahbaz Bhatti, another proponent of amending the blasphemy law, was killed on Mar. 2 by militant Islamic extremists. Bhatti, a Federal Minister and the only Christian in the Pakistani cabinet, worked on Asia Bibi’s behalf and spoke out against the blasphemy law. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the murder of Bhatti. The assassins left leaflets at the scene of the attack which stated they killed him for being a blasphemer.
In light of these events, VOM contacts in Pakistan have expressed concern for Asia Bibi’s lawyer. He may be the next target, or he may refuse to represent her further due to the increasing danger.
Even if Asia Bibi’s sentence is overturned her safety in Pakistan is suspected. That’s because in Dec. 2010, a Muslim cleric offered a $5,800 reward to anyone who killed Asia Bibi in prison.
Asia’s husband, Ashiq Masih, and their children are constantly on the run in Pakistan due to death threats. Other vocal supporters of amending the blasphemy law have had to flee the country because of threats to them and their families.
Please take the time to pray for and write to Asia Bibi and the government officials in Pakistan. Login to the Be-A-Voice Network or go to Prisoner Alert to find Asia Bibi’s profile and contact information. Though there had been talk of moving Asia to another prison, we have not received confirmation that she has been moved. Therefore, please use the address provided in these links.
Again, we thank you for your love and support for the persecuted church. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16b)
Serving the persecuted,