[ACNS, by Adrian Butcher] Campaigners for a young Christian Pakistani woman on death row for breaking the blasphemy law have urged members of the Anglican Consultative Council to step up their efforts to get her released.
The case of Asia Bibi was raised at ACC16 in Lusaka. Members passed a resolution (16:43) urging that her case be re-investigated and she be honourably acquitted. Asia Bibi has been on death row since 2010. Her appeal will be heard next month. She was accused of insulting the Muslim prophet Mohammed after a row over drinking water from the same cup as her Muslim co-workers.
Shunila Ruth – ACC member for Pakistan and coordinator for women in the Church in Pakistan – said Council members needed to increase the pressure to get Asia freed.
“ACC members need to lobby their governments,” she said. “They need to press Pakistan to free Asia. And, more than that, they need to call for Pakistan to re-visit the blasphemy law. It needs to be tackled – it is inhuman.”
She added that Asia’s case was not unique. She told ACNS of one young man in Punjab who had been emailed downloaded material that breached the law. He had not sought it nor downloaded himself. But when news got out, there was uproar.
“The whole village came under threat and he was forced to flee for his life,” she said. “He is now in hiding.”
Dr Phil Groves, coordinator of the Anglican Communion Peace and Justice Network, echoed the call to support Asia Bibi in a letter to ACC members.
In it, he said the ACC’s support had lifted the spirits of the members of the Church in Pakistan. But urged members to do more, including writing to their governments asking them to raise the issue with Pakistan as well as signing an online petition and getting their churches to pray and support the campaign.
Shunila Ruth discussed the blasphemy laws with the Archbishop of Canterbury when she visited Lambeth Palace last weekend. They also spoke about the economic vulnerability of Christians in Pakistan and the issue of forced conversions. She also met the British parliamentarian, Jess Philips, who has worked with British Pakistani women in Birmingham who have suffered domestic violence.
- Asia Bibi’s family and supporters have launched an online petition, A Call For Mercy, calling for her release.