Acts 4:12 “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
This Sunday is Mother’s Day in the United States. All over our great country, Christian churches will be celebrating the tremendous influence mothers have in raising their families and caring for others. I say Christian churches because in Islam there is no concept of Mother’s Day (although the Quran does teach that children should give priority to loving their mother over their father).
But there is a significant event unfolding in Pakistan right now as you read this, where a Christian mother of five is on death row, sentenced to be hanged for a crime that again puts the spotlight on the religion of Islam. Her name is Asia Bibi. Asia is 37 years old and lives in the Pakistan village of Ittanwali, where her family is one of only three Christian families in a village of 1,500 families. Pakistan is nearly 95% Muslim. If you ever feel alone and persecuted in America as a Christian, you won’t after reading Asia’s story.
She was originally arrested on Friday, June 19, 2009. That means she has been in prison, awaiting her death sentence to be carried out, for nine years, while her family, Voice of the Martyrs legal team and the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) fight for her release. What exactly is her crime?
Asia was convicted of violating subsection C of Pakistan’s 295 blasphemy law, the most severe charge because it is blasphemy against the prophet Mohammad, which carries the penalty of death. How did she blaspheme Mohammad? Here is the story as reported by Voice of the Martyrs.
“Many of the local women, including Asia, work on the farm of Muslim landowner Muhammad Idrees. During their work, many of the Muslim women have pressured Asia to renounce Christianity and accept Islam. On Friday, June 19, 2009, there was an intense discussion among the women about their faith.
After picking berries, Asia took a break from her work to get a drink of water and offered some water to the other women working with her. Her co-workers informed Asia that they could not drink water from the hands of a Christian woman, because, by handling it, she had made the water haram (which means forbidden by Allah because handled by an infidel). Asia’s co-workers then demanded that she convert to Islam to be cleansed of her impurity. Asia refused and instead publically affirmed her faith in Jesus Christ.
Asia told the Muslim women that ‘Our Christ sacrificed His life on the cross for our sins…Our Christ is alive.’ She asked the women what Mohammad ever did for them, adding that ‘Our Christ is the true prophet of God, while yours is not.’ The Muslim women became angry and began to beat Asia. Then some men took her and locked her in a room. They announced from mosque loudspeakers that she would be punished by having her face blackened and paraded through the village on a donkey. When the police heard, they took Asia into protective custody. After a lengthy trial, Asia Bibi was sentenced to death by a judge.”
On January 4, 2011 Governor Salmann Tasser of Punjab province (where Asia lives) was assassinated after speaking out repeatedly in favor pardoning Asia and reexamining Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Then, two months later, Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian member of Pakistan’s cabinet and another outspoken supporter of Asia, was also assassinated. Tensions are high between Islamic extremists and Asia’s legal team, who is claiming her only “crime” was publically affirming her faith in Jesus Christ.
The ACLJ sent a letter to the Pakistan government on behalf of Asia, to remind them that Pakistan signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and voted in favor of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which states: ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.’ That means Pakistan’s blasphemy laws contradict these provisions.
Article 6 of the ICCPR limits the ’sentence of death’ to only ‘the most serious of crimes.’ And the ‘crime’ of blasphemy does not in any way meet the Article 6 standard for the death penalty or even life imprisonment. No Christian in Pakistan has ever been executed under the blasphemy law, and if Asia’s death sentence is carried out she would be the first woman to be lawfully executed under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
People around the world are signing a petition to the Pakistan government to pardon Asia Bibi. There are about 700,000 signatures to date on the petition. This mother’s Day, please go to either Voice of the Martyr’s site CallforMercy.com, or ACLJ’s website, to add your signature to the petition.
“The Evidence of Faith’s Substance”, Article #295 – May 12, 2018