The Pakistani Supreme Court has just ordered the immediate release of Asia Bibi, the Christian woman who has spent over eight years on death row.
According to the official ruling, the prosecution has categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. The judges quoted extensively from the Quran and other Islamic scriptures, saying among other things that non-Muslims were to be dealt with kindly.
“We are relieved to hear that the Pakistani Supreme Court has dropped the charges against Asia Bibi—charges that were based simply on her Christian identity and false accusations against her,” an Open Doors spokesmen said. “This decision gives us hope that Pakistan will take additional steps to increase freedom of religion and human rights in the country.”
In the meantime, local Christians have asked Open Doors to call for prayer around the world. A few days ago, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the Chief Cleric of Hardcore Extremist Group Tehreek Labek Pakistan (also known as Khaatm-e-Nabooat) in a video message has called upon his followers to come out on the roads and be ready to do and die in case the verdict of Supreme Court came out in favor of Asia Bibi.
Mumtaz Qadri, the man who killed Governor Salman Taseer in daylight in the capital in 2011 belonged to this school of thought and group. Governor Taseer was killed for supporting Asia Bibi and opposing the misuse of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws.
“This is a highly tense and threatening situation for the religious minorities, especially for Pakistani Christians and there is fear of persecution of Christians and attack on their Churches and other properties,” Open Doors partners shared. “Therefore, we call upon the Government of Pakistan and the Supreme Court to take notice of the threat call made by Khadim Rizvi and his Group before the announcement of Asia Bibi verdict. We also call upon to ban Tehreek Labek Pakistan and all similar Extremist Groups who are involved in hate speech and use religion as a tool to promote violence in the society. We also call upon the Government and law enforcement agencies to beef up the security and ensure the deployment of military troops to safeguard the lives and property of religious minorities, especially the Christians and Churches.”
“Be imitators of Christ”
At the same time, church leaders ask their fellow Christians to behave in a manner worthy of Christ. “We call on Christians across the country and around the world to pray and proclaim. To demand our right to justice but to do so in a manner befitting Christians committed to be imitators of Christ. Do not destroy property, do not violate people, do not fall into the trap of violent and aggressive behavior. In response to this verdict, please hold back from making any comments that could be used against you.”
The church leaders continue by saying, “These groups are on high alert and will be watching for any way to increase the pressure against Asia, Christians and the Church. Let us strive to demonstrate restraint, no use of aggression or physical violence can make up for our loss as a Nation and a community. We are a match as a praying people let us trust God and ensure that we demonstrate Him and His Good News at this time. Let us be compassionate to those who mourn and suffer at this time and let us be prepared with our resources to serve this nation at a time when a bloodbath could easily occur. Be willing to become a public care servant, to demonstrate God’s desire for justice, mercy and humility. If you have medical skills or social work skills, be willing to use them. Be watchful, vigilant and calm. God be with us all to Him be all the Glory.”
Responses from Christians
“God is good,” responded a local Christian after learning about the verdict. “Pray for Pakistan. The situation is unfolding. I’m at my work and I see the rangers come in to take over security. Please pray for God’s mercy and wisdom and for God to do an amazing work in this land.”
Not much later, (certain) offices and schools were closed. “Our staff members are concerned about their children, especially the ones who attend a school with a Muslim majority. Pray that while they travel home, they are not recognized as Christians and won’t draw any attention.”
A mother waiting for her child to come home, shared with us: “Joy, anger, fear, disbelief, fear again, rejoicing, trusting, fear, questions, surrendering: God is in control: surely we will overcome.”
Continue to Pray for Christians in Pakistan
- Praise God for the release of Asia Bibi! And please pray for her continued protection as extremist groups call for her death.
- Pakistan ranks 5th on the World Watch List of most dangerous countries to be a Christian. Please pray for the Pakistani government to pass laws that will protect vulnerable Christians.
- Pray for Pakistani Christians who come from a Muslim background who suffer the brunt of the persecution in Pakistan. Radical Islamist groups see them as apostates, and their family, friends and neighbors see their conversion as shameful to the community.
- Pray for safety and protection for the Christian women and girls in Pakistan who must live under the threat of abduction, rape and forced marriage.
- Pray for believers to be bold in their faith amidst unjust blasphemy laws and extreme persecution.