The Pakistani Supreme Court has ordered the immediate release of Asia Bibi, the Christian woman who has spent over 8 years on death row.
According to the official ruling, the prosecution categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. The judges quoted extensively from the Quran and other Islamic scriptures, saying among other things that non-Muslims were to be dealt with kindly.
“We are relieved to hear that the Pakistani Supreme Court has dropped the charges against Asia Bibi—charges that were based simply on her Christian identity and false accusations against her,” an Open Doors spokesperson said. “This decision gives us hope that Pakistan will take additional steps to increase freedom of religion and human rights in the country.”
Asia was the first woman to be sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan.
She was going to the village well to get water in 2009, when some Muslim women tried to chase her away from the well, claiming that she would make the water ‘unclean’ if she used it. Asia responded by saying that Jesus had rescued her and then asked, “What has your prophet done for you?” For this simple question, she was sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010, and has been in prison ever since.
Since the ruling, we’re not sure whether Asia has been released. Furthermore, extremist groups have put pressure on the government, asking that Asia not be allowed to leave the country. Her husband has appealed to the UK, Canada and the US for help. He believes the family are in severe danger, especially if they stay in Pakistan – read more here…
In the meantime, local Christians have asked Open Doors to call for prayer around the world. A few days ago, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the Chief Cleric of hardcore extremist group Tehreek Labek Pakistan (also known as Khaatm-e-Nabooat) called upon his followers to come out on the roads and be ready to die in case the verdict of the Supreme Court came out in favour of Asia Bibi. Mumtaz Qadri, the killer who killed Governor Salman Taseer in daylight in the capital in 2011 belonged to this school of thought and group. Governor Taseer was killed for supporting Asia Bibi and opposing the misuse of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws.
At the same time, church leaders ask their fellow Christians to behave in a manner worthy of Christ. “We call on Christians across the country and around the world to pray and proclaim. To demand our right to justice but to do so in a manner befitting Christians committed to be imitators of Christ. Do not destroy property, do not violate people, do not fall into the trap of violent and aggressive behaviour. In response to this verdict please hold back from making any comments that could be used against you.”
The church leaders continue by saying, “These groups are on high alert and will be watching for any way to increase the pressure against Asia, Christians and the church. Let us strive to demonstrate restraint; no use of aggression or physical violence can make up for our loss as a nation and a community. We are a match as a praying people – let us trust God and ensure that we demonstrate Him and His Good News at this time. Let us be compassionate to those who mourn and suffer at this time and let us be prepared with our resources to serve this nation at a time when a blood bath could easily occur. Be willing to become a public care servant, to demonstrate God’s desire for justice, mercy and humility. If you have medical skills or social work skills, be willing to use them. Be watchful, vigilant and calm. God be with us all – to Him be all the Glory.”
“God is good,” responded a local Christian after learning about the verdict. “Pray for Pakistan. The situation is unfolding. I’m at my work and I see the rangers come in to take over security. Please pray for God’s mercy and wisdom and for God to do an amazing work in this land.”
A little later, certain offices and schools were closed. “Our staff members are concerned about their children, especially the ones who attend a school with a Muslim majority. Pray that while they travel home they are not recognised as Christians and won’t draw any attention.”
A mother waiting for her child to come home, shared with us: “Joy, anger, fear, disbelief, fear again, rejoicing, trusting, fear, questions, surrendering… God is in control: surely we will overcome.”
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.