In a time of increased attacks on the freedom of religion, Asia Bibi's acquittal is a historic and hopeful verdict for Christian minorities.
PUBLISHED ONJan 2019
A landmark announcement was made at the end of last October with the decision of Pakistan’s Supreme Court to acquit the Christian woman, Asia Bibi, in a case in which she was accused of blasphemy and condemned to death in 2010. Her husband and daughter described the news of her acquittal as the “most marvelous moment” of their lives and thanked God for answering their prayers. However, her safety hangs in the balance as Muslim fundamentalists are calling for her death. Her own lawyer, a Muslim, was elated at the decision but fears for Asia’s life, suggesting that she will have to seek asylum outside.
The news of Asia’s freedom sparked mass protests in several cities of Pakistan with radical islamists blocking highways, chanting slogans against the decision and threatening to kill the three judges who delivered the verdict.
The case dates back to 2009 following a bitter argument between the Christian woman and her Muslim co-workers who accused her of insulting the Prophet Muhammad and uttering abuses against Islam, something that she denied. She was dragged to the police station where she was charged with blasphemy and jailed.
She was sentenced to death and has been in prison for the past eight years. Her case has drawn international condemnation and calls for the repeal of the infamous blasphemy law. During her imprisonment many people spoke up in her defense, including Pope Francis who received her husband and daughter.
The blasphemy law condemns to death penalty anyone convicted of insulting Islam or the Prophet Muhammad. Since its introduction in 1987 the law has been used to persecute religious minorities and settle personal issues and property disputes leading to more than a thousand accusations of blasphemy.
People who have advocated for changes in the law have suffered violence. In 2011, a governor and a cabinet minister who had campaigned for Bibi’s release and changes in the blasphemy law were shot and killed.
Asia Bibi is an icon of all believers from different religions who face persecution because of their faith. In a time of increased attacks on the freedom of religion, Asia’s release is a historic and hopeful verdict for Christian minorities who aspire to have the same rights as their Muslim brothers and sisters in Pakistan.