Over the past several years, I have written a series of articles on these pages regarding the plight of Asia Bibi. Asia Bibi is a Pakistani Christian, and a married mother of five, who was sentenced to death under Pakistan’s notorious criminal code section 295(c), which prescribes the death penalty for “insulting” Mohammed and Islam. What was her “crime?” In June 2009, while working in the fields, she was sent to bring water for the other farm workers. Some of the Moslem workers refused to drink the water she brought as they considered water touched by Christians to be “unclean.” Her co-workers complained to the local authorities that she made derogatory comments about Mohammed. What was the derogatory comment she made? The Moslem women claimed that Asia Bibi said: “I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind?” Asia Bibi is illiterate, and is considered, by most accounts, to be an illiterate and uneducated woman, but she asked a deeply profound question. One of the great differences between the Holy Bible and Islamic teaching is that the Holy Bible teaches in Ephesians 2:8-9 that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and our salvation does not depend upon our good works or any personal merit. In contrast, the Qur’an teaches that salvation is by sincerity and good works (see, e.g., Qur’an 3:135; 7:8-9, 21:47, 66:8-9). Allah is said to weigh the actions of an individual Moslem, and therefore one cannot know and experience Allah’s assurance of eternal salvation unless one dies in jihad or holy war.
Six days after the water incident, a violent mob came to Asia Bibi’s home, damaged it, and assaulted and beat her and members of her family. In response, Pakistani police arrested her, and she spent more than one year in jail awaiting trial. Finally, in November 2010, The Honorable Judge Muhammed Naveed Iqbal sentenced her to death by hanging, and he fined her the equivalent of $1,100, a huge sum in rural Pakistan. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari refused to pardon her after large demonstrations were held against her. Several Pakistani government officials who courageously and publicly called for Asia Bibi’s release, and the abolition of the Pakistan’s blasphemy law, have been assassinated, including the Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, who was murdered by one of his bodyguards. Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian member of Pakistan’s cabinet at the time, was assassinated for speaking out on her behalf as well.
In a recent interview, Asia Bibi’s husband said that even if his wife is acquitted of blasphemy in Pakistan’s Supreme Court (where the case has been languishing for years), her life will still be in danger in Pakistan. A bounty has been placed on her head by Islamic imams even if she is acquitted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Although her husband, their four daughters and one son have been offered asylum outside of Pakistan, the family has decided to remain in Pakistan awaiting Asia Bibi’s release. However because of the never-ending threats against them as well, they have been forced to move fifteen times since her mother’s death sentence. In a recent interview in British Daily Mail, available here, her husband said the following:
My children cry for their mother, they are broken. But I try to give them hope where I can. I hope [the fellow villagers] feel guilt for what they have done. But I fear they don’t. The clerics want her dead. They have announced a bounty . . . for anyone who kills Asia. They have even declared that if the court acquits her they will ensure the death sentence stands. I am planning our protection. If she is set free I hope we’re moved to a safer country as Pakistan cannot protect her. She’s not made any mistake. We all know she’s not committed any crime. We all know how Pakistan treats Christians. She was framed; she never committed any crime. I’m allowed to see her every Friday but the expense and danger makes it hard. I try to go as often as I can and I saw her 15 days ago. My children see her about three times a year because it’s such a risk. Asia smiles every time I visit her; she’s so strong. Whenever we meet she asks for updates in the case. She asks me about the lawyer. She is so frustrated. But she has strong belief that she will be released. She is a very strong woman. She has not cried in front of me once, just keeps smiling and tells me not to worry. . . . She is not the coy type, she’s very bold. She counts the days that pass. Whenever I see her I take her dry fruits, especially almonds as she really likes them and new clothes.
It’s shameful for Mr. Obama to continue to pour billions of dollars annually in foreign aid to Pakistan despite the fact that this nation persecutes Christian believers. Please continue to pray for Asia Bibi, and for her release from prison. Her next (and hopefully, the final) hearing before the Pakistani Supreme Court is set for July 22nd. Please pray also for the many other Christians being held in Pakistani prisons for the “crime” of blasphemy.