Update: Aasiya Bibi – Hoping for Justice, Waiting for a Miracle

Aasiya Bibi Photo: Aasiya Bibi with her daughters The following is an update on Aasiya Bibi- a Pakistani Christian who has been in prison for the past four years, accused of blaspheming the Islamic prophet Mohammed. This is an act punishable by death in Pakistan. Please take a moment to read her update and pray for Aasiya and all the Christians in Pakistan. Day after day, Aasiya would try to exemplify the woman that many know as the Proverbs 31 wife. The Pakistani wife and mother would awaken early in the morning and prepare breakfast for her husband and their daughters to send them to school. She would make sure their uniforms were clean and ironed, so when they went to school they would not be humiliated and made fun of by the other students who looked down on them for being lower caste Christians. Once the girls had their breakfast and made their way to school, she would go to the well to collect water. From the moment she left the front door of her home and walked through the lush green fields toward the well, she would hear women sneering and muttering as she walked past. She would avoid eye contact, though some days she was tempted to speak back. At the well she often faced the taunts of others who asked her why she came to the well. “Issai Choori” they would call her, which means “Christian low caste sweeper woman.” “Don’t come here to get water. You contaminate it and make it impossible for us to use the well,” they would say to her. Day after day she asked God for strength, not letting their comments and insults stop her from trying to do her best to care for her husband and children. It was harvest season in 2009 when Aasiya went to see if she could be hired to work in the fields. It would make some extra money, as well as get some grain for the season ahead. This was normal practice for women in the village. But that day would prove to be the worst day of her life. Arriving in the field, she faced more insults and taunts. Some commented on her being a Christian– believing Jesus was God, and being a lover of the West. “They screamed at her and told her she was a sweeper woman and did not belong in the village,” says a close relative of Aasiya who does not want to be named. “That was 4 years ago. We still do not know what the fate of our sister will be, and whether there is any use in going back to our homes and trying to restart life in the old communities. We do not know if God will answer the prayers of her family, to allow her to come home to us, and allow all of us to live a normal life again,” the relative. On that day in June 2009, Aasiya had borne all the insults she could. Perhaps it had been one of those mornings when she had got out of bed after hardly any sleep at night, sleepless from worrying about her girls and their future in a hostile world where Christians were so discriminated against. Whatever was going on in Aasiya’s mind at the time, she obviously knew what she believed. She spoke that day with boldness, quite clearly at the end of her resources. “She did what we tell one another never to do,” says a pastor from the area. “She mentioned their prophet!” The pastor’s face clouds as he remembers hearing the account over and again from the people in the surrounding areas. “She asked them a dangerous question, and put herself at the risk of facing the worst fate any Christian should carefully avoid. She asked the people who were taunting her : ‘My Jesus gave His life for me and saved me from sin. What did your prophet do for you?'” That day was the last time Aasiya was free. “Perhaps even as the words tumbled out of her mouth, she knew she was taking a huge risk. But we will never know that, and it makes little difference if she was remorseful or not. This is Pakistan. Here we have hardly any rights. Here we are forbidden from expressing our opinions and saying anything about Islam unless it is positive,” says Aasiya’s relative. Ever since June 19, 2009, Aasiya has been locked up, accused of blasphemy against the prophet Mohammad, which made her a criminal in the sight of the law. She is still experiencing the injustice and hopelessness of the judicial system of Pakistan, Christians are guilty until proved innocent, and where innocence was not likely to ever be proved. At the time of her arrest, Aasiya Bibi was first ordered by the magistrate to physical remand for 5 days, when she was mistreated by the police. She later stated, “When I was arrested, I was assaulted and harassed by the police. I was in a state of shock for many days.” Aasiya stands accused of blasphemy under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which calls for death or life imprisonment for defiling the name of the prophet Mohammad. Her trial verdict came in November 2010, when the lower court found her guilty and gave her the death sentence. Although Pakistan’s laws of evidence strictly forbid “hearsay” evidence and require direct oral testimony, the two witnesses who were presented before the Magistrate Court in Aasiya Bibi’s case were not even present at the time of the alleged incident. Thus they neither heard it, nor did they see anything on which their evidence was based. So Aasiya Bibi was convicted by the court on such fabricated evidence. Aasiya Bibi has lodged an appeal to the Lahore High Court against this judgment. Lawyers involved in the case remain confident that the testimonies upon which the prosecution based its case will not stand up before the more impartial and professional High Court of Lahore. “The magistrate courts are in fact subjected to political influences and pressure from Islamic fundamentalists,” they state. “These things do not happen in the upper echelons of justice.” Legal experts expect the appeals process to take another year, during which her safety would best be ensured if she remains in the jail in Sheikhupura, where she is allowed to meet her family once a week. Waiting for a Miracle At Open Doors’ request, a church worker recently interviewed a prominent Pakistani Christian lawyer regarding Aasiya Bibi’s current situation. The lawyer, who cannot be named for security reasons, gave some insight into where Aasiya Bibi stands in the sight of the law. “To be exposed and known as a lawyer who is speaking to the West about Aasiya Bibi is not only dangerous for me, but for her too. It would cause aggression and anger against her, and she is vulnerable and alone. We cannot take risks with her safety. We need more people to know about her situation and pray for her,” he said. “Already many lawyers have had to abandon the case,” he continued. “Some have had to leave the country because of their involvement with the case, and we have seen the assassinations of two politicians who dared to speak on her behalf and against this law: Salman Taseer the governor of Punjab, in 2011; and the Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti a few months later.” The lawyer sat silently, looking at the plastic laminated picture of a forest on his wall. He has no window in his office, as he believes it would be too dangerous to have one. “Aasiya Bibi has shown much perseverance and faith, despite the fact that her visiting rights by her family are limited and restricted. She has been physically assaulted in prison and hears consistently the five calls to prayer every day by the mullah in the mosque, but she has not forgotten her Jesus. She fasts through Lent and prays, and has not given up on God, through some very dark and lonely days. Why should we?” he asks. Learn More & Pray For Pakistan

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