This week many around the world have prayed for the Pakistani Supreme Court hearing for Asia Bibi that took place yesterday. Over the years, I have written a number of articles on these pages describing the horrific plight of Asia Bibi. Asia Bibi is a Pakistani Christian, and a married mother of five, who was sentenced to death by hanging under Pakistan’s notorious criminal code section 295(c), which prescribes the death penalty for “insulting” Mohammed and Islam. What was her “crime?” It was in June 2009, while working in the fields, that 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 then complained to the local authorities that she made derogatory comments about Mohammed.  What was the derogatory comment she was alleged to have 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 to be an 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.

Several 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 for blasphemy, 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. Among those killed was 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.

Yesterday, as many as 3,000 riot police and other security personnel were deployed around the Supreme Court building in Islamabad. One of the judges, The Honorable Iqbal Hameed ur Rehman, conveniently realized that he had to recuse himself from this case (citing a “conflict of interest”) and refused to hear her case. As a result, her appeal could not go forward and was adjourned. However, no future hearing date has been set. Due to “security concerns,” Asia Bibi is being held in solitary confinement, but the justices of the Supreme Court of Pakistan know that if she is acquitted, they are putting their lives at serious risk from violent Islamic mobs and assassins. Although Asia Bibi’s 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 at least fifteen times since her incarceration. Please continue to pray for this dear Christian sister and her family that she will be able to leave Islamic Pakistan soon. May it be so, Lord Jesus!