On Tuesday Asia Bibi will complete her ninth year of imprisonment for her Christian faith after being arrested for blasphemy in 2009 and sentenced to death by hanging in 2010.
In June 2009, Pakistani police arrested Asia Bibi on charges of blasphemy following complaints by Muslim women backed up by an Imam, who claimed she had insulted the prophet Muhammad.
The accusations followed on a row between Bibi and a group of Muslim coworkers. She had been harvesting berries in a field with a group of Muslim women who grew angry with her for drinking out of the same metal water bowl as them, insisting that as a Christian she was unclean.
From the outset Ms. Bibi has vehemently denied the charges of insulting the prophet. She claims that when her coworkers made derogatory statements about her faith, she merely answered: “I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Muhammad ever do to save mankind?”
In November 2010, Bibi received the death sentence by the lower court in Nanka district and four years later the Lahore High Court confirmed the verdict. She imprisoned in the Multan female prison.
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Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) said last week that Bibi has been the victim of intense persecution for comparing Christ’s sacrifice with the prophet.
“She spoke about the wonderful sacrifice Christ made of his life for us and asked the simple question, ‘What has Muhammad done for you?’ For that, this torture, this beating, this isolation, attempts to assassinate her,” he said.
“We’ve never heard of such animosity that would result in, in essence, the whole country being against her. It has been really awful; she’s been separated from her five children for the whole period of that time,” he added.
At least two public figures have died for speaking out in support of Asia Bibi.
Former Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer and former Minister for Minorities Shabbaz Bhatti, Pakisttan’s only Christian minister, were both assassinated for raising concerns over Bibi’s incarceration and calling for a review of the infamous blasphemy laws.
Bibi’s husband and their family have reportedly been offered asylum in several western nations.
Pakistan has some of the harshest blasphemy laws in the world, prescribing the death penalty for the crime of insulting the Prophet Muhammad and life imprisonment for offending the Koran, Islam holy book.
The blasphemy laws are an extremely sensitive issue in the predominantly Muslim nation where Christians make up less than two percent of the population.
Critics of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws say the legislation is often abused to settle personal vendettas between families and individuals.
The “pernicious blasphemy laws of Pakistan have to be terminated; they serve no purpose in modern-day society and are not even sanctioned by the Quran,” Chowdry said. “Moreover, what divine being would need man-made laws for protection?”
Pope Francis held a private meeting in the Vatican with Asia Bibi’s husband and their youngest daughter Eisham last February 24 during an event organized in Rome to express solidarity for persecuted Christians around the world.
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