Breaking the Chains of Persecution
Eisham pictured on the left is the daughter of Asia Bibi a Christian who spent almost a decade in prison because she was falsely accused of blasphemy in Pakistan.
Her voice cracking and blinking away the tears, Eisham Ashiq, the 18-year-old daughter of Asia Bibi, described her mother’s suffering and thanked ACN benefactors for their prayers and support.
Speaking at an ACN event at London’s Westminster Cathedral, Eisham said: “Thank you so much, ACN, for all you are doing to help us. Please do not forget us.”
Eisham and her father, Ashiq Masih, who were in the UK at the invitation of ACN, told how Asia Bibi came to be sentenced to death for allegedly blaspheming against the Muslim Prophet Mohammed. One hot summer’s day, Asia, a Christian working among a mainly Muslim workforce, was scolded by fellow berry-pickers for drinking water from a shared cup, an act which they claimed defiled the vessel. When Asia defended her actions, she was accused of blasphemy, charged and sentenced to death.
After a long struggle to prove her innocence, on 31st October 2018 Asia Bibi was acquitted by the Pakistan Supreme Court. At the time of writing, Asia is in “protective custody” in Pakistan.
In the meantime, ACN has continued to help Asia Bibi’s family who were forced to live in hiding because of mobs angered by her acquittal. The charity has appealed on the family’s behalf, both in the media and with politicians and government ministers, amid increasing calls for Asia Bibi and her family to be offered asylum.
How you can help people suffering like Asia Bibi
ACN is appealing for help to support thousands of people who – like Asia Bibi – live under the shadow of Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws. Articles 295B and 295C of Pakistan’s Penal Code impose the death penalty for blasphemy against the Muslim Prophet Mohammed and life imprisonment for desecration of the Qur’an. With mob rule commonplace and corruption widespread, large numbers of people are accused of crimes they have not committed. Latest reports state that, since the blasphemy laws were first introduced in 1987, more than 1,530 people have been accused of blasphemy.
Many of their families have also suffered. They are forced out of their homes and into hiding; they have lost their jobs and many risk being lynched. Working with the Church’s National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), ACN is providing vital assistance to blasphemy victims:
• Legal aid – solicitors representing victims in court.
• Paralegal aid – jail visits, distribution of Bibles and Rosaries, Christmas and birthday gifts
• Food, medicine, schooling and other essential help for families who have lost breadwinners
• Safe houses for people forced into hiding under suspicion of blasphemy
Father Emmanuel ‘Mani’ Youssaf, National Director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, said: “We are now very aware of the hatred and bias that exists towards the Christian community. We fully expect many more appeals for legal and paralegal help.
“Many thanks to those of you who support us with your prayers and gifts. Please continue to be generous and contribute towards this noble cause that is so important for the Christian community.”