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Pakistan: Asia Bibi's appeal to take up to eight years
09 October 2015
Asia Bibi was going to the well to get water in 2009 when Muslim women tried to chase her away from the well because, as a Christian, she 'polluted the water'. Asia responded by saying that Jesus had rescued her and then asked "What has your prophet done for you?"
Six years later she is in prison on death row. She has been sentenced to death under Pakistan's infamous blasphemy laws, but late this summer she was granted leave to appeal. This process will take six to eight years. Meanwhile Asia is battling with ill health.
Life in solitary confinement
Asia has only left Multan jail to travel to court and to the hospital. She is kept in solitary confinement.
Women in prison have to read the Quran. It is not clear whether Asia Bibi is forced to sit in front of the text like the other women. The women are told that those that learn large parts by heart will have their sentences reduced. The conditions are insanitary, hot and often very noisy. Some women keep their children until they are seven years old so often the sound of their voices will carry through to Asia.
Asia has her own toilet and has her own cooking facilities. Asia cooks for herself - this is probably a good thing as it reduces the risk of extremists poisoning her. Standards of hygiene are very bad and Asia fell seriously ill this year.
Asia's case is still critical. She is still in confinement and more at risk than ever before. Extremists have threatened to take the law into their own hands and assassinate Asia themselves. "They drive around the Multan Jail and fire their heavy ammunition into the air to intimidate her and any legal assistance she has," says a pastor who was able to meet Asia in the early years of her imprisonment. Since then, he has only been able to go and pray at the jail without any hope of seeing her.
While she waits, Asia Bibi does so as a sick, lonely woman. She suffers from internal bleeding and poor health and longs to be reunited with her family.
Asia Needs Your Voice
"In Pakistan and abroad, Asia has become a symbol of suffering for one's faith," a local church worker tells Open Doors. "She is not just another victim lacerated by Pakistan's hatred and injustice towards a broken and beaten community. Asia is a symbol for a community which pays for its faith with its mothers, wives, fathers, husbands, and children. The rage and brutality against Pakistani Christians continues."
She continues, "The question on most people's mind is: 'Why does God allow this to happen?' For me, the purpose is clear. Asia is a symbol for all Christians, both in Pakistan and internationally; she is a living example of the need to come to the Lord in prayer. Our local teams feel deeply invested in cases like Asia's. We have been raising prayer support for Asia for many years and have been encouraging local Christians to take the lead in praying for their sister in prison."
A Pakistani pastor says, "We need the international community to keep telling Asia's story so she is not forgotten. Do not antagonise the judiciary and the police here in Pakistan, but do keep reminding them that you have not forgotten Asia's predicament."
Stand with Asia
- Pray - on your own, or with a group at your church
- Tell others - share Asia's plight so that she is not forgotten, and her suffering will highlight the plight of other Christians around the world who are imprisoned for their faith.
- For Asia's health and protection
- For her case to be heard quickly and for her safe release
- For strength for the 5.3 million Christians in Pakistan as they continue in their faith
- For comfort for all Christians around the world imprisoned for their faith.
More News from Pakistan:
- Political turmoil affects 'vulnerable' minorities
- Mob attempts to kill Christian boy accused of blasphemy
- Christian sewage worker dies after doctors on Ramadan fast refuse to touch him
- Infamous blasphemy law to be reviewed by Human Rights Committee
- Christian man accused of blasphemy after torn Quran found
Find out more about persecution in Pakistan.