Catholic woman on Death row in Pakistan to Learn Fate

Asia Bibi has been held in solitary confinement since November 2010, when she was sentenced to hang for insulting Prophet Muhammad, an allegation she denies.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has set up a three-member bench to hear the final appeal against the execution of Ms Bibi on October 8. The court ‎had earlier adjourned her death sentence appeal on October 13, 2016, after one of the three judges recused himself ‎from the case.‎

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So far nobody has been convicted under blasphemy laws which were introduced by former military dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in 1980s.

Insulting the Prophet Muhammad in Pakistan is a crime punishable by death, while offending the ‎Koran incurs life imprisonment.

The blasphemy laws remain an extremely sensitive issue in ‎the predominantly Muslim nation and they have ‎drawn intense criticism even within the country. Rights ‎organisations say the law is often misused to settle personal scores.‎

Former Punjab governor Salman Taseer and Catholic ‎minister Shahbaz Bhatti were both assassinated in ‎2011 after they defended Ms Bibi and spoke out ‎against her death sentence and the misuse of ‎the blasphemy laws.‎‎

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Image: Visit of St. Joseph's Colony, located in a Christian-dominated neighborhood of Lahore, where an enraged mob torched dozens of houses following allegations of blasphemy against a Christian man in March 2013. It appeared that the man had been falsely accused of blasphemy.

Ms Bibi has been detained since 2009 on charges of blasphemy reported by Muslim women and an Imam, following an argument over sharing a bowl of water with fellow workers in a field. In November 2010, she was given the death sentence by the lower court in Nanka district and four years later the verdict was confirmed by Lahore High Court.

If Ms Bibi’s appeal is rejected by the Supreme Court, her only recourse will be a direct appeal to the President for clemency. If that fails, she could become the first person in Pakistan to be executed for blasphemy.

Ms Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, said that if his wife is released, the entire family will immediately seek sanctuary in one of several countries that have offered them exile, because it was too dangerous for them to remain in Pakistan. 

Prayer Points:
We pray for the release of Asia Bibi.
We pray for all those persecuted for their faith.
We pray for wisdom for leaders in Pakistan that they can protect all their citizens and that people will be allowed to practice their peacefully held religious beliefs.

Lord hear us, 
Lord graciously hear us. 

On Red Wednesday 28 November stand up for faith and freedom. Red Wednesday is an intiative of Aid to the Church in Need. It is a day to stand up for those who are persecuted for their peacefully held religious beliefs. It also coincides with the launch date of the 2018 Religious Freedom in the World Report. A document produced every two years by Aid to the Church in Need. The 2018 report will be available to view at: http://religious-freedom-report.org/ 

 

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