Christian woman in Pakistan sentenced to death by hanging for blasphemy
A Christian wife and mother in Pakistan has been sentenced to death by hanging for blasphemy.
Asia Bibi, 45, was also fined some $1,135—about two and a half year’s earnings for a farm worker—for saying defamatory statements about the Prophet Mohammed, according to Christian Today.
Bibi denies the charges and said that she is being persecuted for her faith. According to the Telegraph, Christians in Pakistan are routinely discriminated against and harassed.
The Telegraph said that human rights groups and Christian organizations have condemned the verdict and are seeking a repeal of the blasphemy laws. Supporters of Bibi said that she will appeal the sentence of the local court in Sheikhupura, a town near Lahore in Pakistan.
Andy Dipper, chief executive of Release International, said he was shocked to learn of the local court’s ruling. Christian Today reported that Bibi had been hoping to be acquitted so that she could be back with her husband and children.
Dipper told Christian Today, “Although Asia has great courage, her dreams of release have vanished now. Please pray for her encouragement, strength and protection.”
Ashiq Masih, the husband of Bibi, said he could not yet tell their two younger daughters of the ruling. He told Telegraph, “They asked me many times about their mother but I can’t get the courage to tell them that the judge has sentenced their mother to capital punishment for a crime she never committed.”
Bibi has been kept in isolation in prison since June last year, according to Telegraph.
The trouble began when Bibi, a field hand who worked with other women, was told to fetch drinking water. However, some of the Muslim women refused to drink the water because it was brought by a Christian, making it “unclean,” the Telegraph reported.
Christian Today reported that some of the women workers tried to make Bibi renounce her faith. Bibi told them that Jesus died for the sins of all men, and asked the women what Muhammad did for them.
The women, offended, struck Bibi repeatedly, and a group of men locked her in a room. Release International told Christian Today that a mob abused and beat her and her children.
According to the Telegraph, the police were pressured by the Muslim mob, some of whom were clerics, to register a blasphemy case against Bibi. Human rights often say the law is used to discriminate against religious minorities, including some three million Christians in Pakistan.
Ali Hasan Dayan, of Human Rights Watch, told Telegraph that Pakistan’s constitution guarantees many rights which are inconsistent with the blasphemy law. He said that oftentimes the law is used to settle scores that are not even related with religion.
Release International has launched a petition to end Pakistan’s blasphemy law and said the death sentence against Bibi would set a dangerous precedent for other blasphemy cases, Christian Today reported.
To sign Release’s online petition, go to www.releaseinternational.org/current.