Nicholas Kristof devoted precious New York Times space to the pleadings of one Christian Pakistani family to save their wife and mother from a death sentence:
Note: Asia Bibi, a Christian Pakistani woman, was sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam in 2010. The year before, while picking fruit with Muslim women, she took a sip of water from the local well. She was immediately accused of making the water impure by the other workers, who told her that they could no longer use the well. According to her husband, Ashiq Masih, and others, men and women started beating her and accusing her of making derogatory remarks against the Islamic prophet Muhammad, a charge she denies. Asia is currently in prison waiting to be hanged after losing an appeal on Oct. 16. She has told her story in a memoir, Blasphemy: A Memoir: Sentenced to Death over a Cup of Water, written with French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet.
Below is an open letter by Ashiq addressed to the world community. (Madam Mayor refers to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who has offered her support to Asia.)
Her husband writes, in part:
I live in hiding with my five children as near as possible to Asia. She needs us very much to help keep her alive, to bring her medicine and good food when she is sick.
After my wife had spent four long years in prison in terrible conditions, we were hoping that the High Court of Lahore would free my wife. She did not commit blasphemy, never. Since the court confirmed the death sentence on the 16th of October, we do not understand why our country, our beloved Pakistan, is so against us. Our family has always lived here in peace, and we never had any disturbance. We are Christians but we respect Islam. Our neighbors are Muslims and we have always lived well with them in our little village. But for some years now the situation in Pakistan has changed because of just a few people, and we are afraid. Today many of our Muslim friends cannot understand why the Pakistani justice system is making our family suffer so much.
We are now trying our best to present the final case to the Supreme Court before the 4th of December. But we are convinced that Asia will only be saved from being hanged if the venerable President Mammon Hussain grants her a pardon. No one should be killed for drinking a glass of water.
Asia’s letter to the Madame Mayor of Paris is a poignant, powerful reminder of the fact that women and Christians are under constant threat in radical Islamic nations:
“My prison cell has no windows and day and night are the same to me, but if I am still holding on today it is thanks to everyone who is trying to help me. When my husbnd showed me the photographs of people I have never met drinking a glass of water for me, my heart overflowed. Ashiq told me that the city of Paris is offering to welcome our family. I send my deepest thanks to you Madam Mayor, and to all the kind people of Paris and across the world. You are my only hope of staying alive in this dungeon, so please don’t abandon me. I did not commit blasphemy.”
Robert Spencer covered Asia’s plea to the Pope back in January, observing:
It may be that only God can free her because Christians in the West don’t dare to speak out on her behalf: Robert McManus, the Roman Catholic bishop of Worcester, Massachusetts, summed up an all-too-common view last February when he wrote: “Talk about extreme, militant Islamists and the atrocities that they have perpetrated globally might undercut the positive achievements that we Catholics have attained in our inter-religious dialogue with devout Muslims.”
So in the interests of perpetuating Muslim/Christian “dialogue,” Asia Bibi and other Pakistani Christians accused of blasphemy have no friend, no protector, and no spokesman. Nevertheless, it still remains to be seen whether Pope Francis will step into the breach.
Pope Francis has yet to utter a word regarding Asia Bibi, let alone make a public statement in support of her cause as did his predecessor, Pope Benedict.
In October, the American Center for Law and Justice petitioned the U.S. Government to cease sending billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan on the grounds that the nation actively persecutes Christians. Citing Asia’s case, legal experts commented:
Bibi’s hopes now lie with Pakistan’s Supreme Court. The International Christian Concern told The Christian Post last week in an interview that there are good reasons to hope that the Supreme Court will decide to overturn the death penalty.
“I think the chances of the Supreme Court overturning the death sentence are much greater than that of the High Court. In many cases, especially blasphemy cases, court decisions are influenced, either by ideology or threats, by local radical groups. Generally, the High Court is more insulated from this influence,” William Stark, ICC’s regional manager for South Asia, told CP.
He speculated that the high profile nature of Bibi’s case might have influenced the judges to hand down a decision that would not anger the radical groups, however.
Stark also agreed that the U.S. government could help the Christian mother by applying pressure on Pakistan, especially given the international aid it sends to that country.
“Having the U.S. government call on Pakistan to uphold international human rights standards as part of receiving aid shouldn’t be that far-fetched,” he said.
It is the responsibility of everyone, women, Christians and Jews especially, in the free world to share Asia’s story and advocate for her freedom and the freedom of those like her across the radical Islamic world. For more information, the British Pakistani Christian Association is closely covering Asia’s story: Read more here. Asia’s book is also available on Amazon.