There was some positive news on Wednesday involving the case of Pakistani Christian Aasiya Noreen (known as Asia Bibi) when the court allowed her to take the appeal against her death penalty for blasphemy to Pakistan’s Supreme Court in the capital of Islamabad. Until the Supreme Court reaches its final decision, Bibi cannot be executed.
Commentators praised the Supreme Court for its courage to hear the appeal in the face of strong public sentiment against anyone seen to denigrate Islam, with some calling it a “historic day for Pakistan.”
However, today there was a dose of reality regarding her future. She has been suffering in a Pakistani prison for the past six years for allegedly defaming the prophet Muhammad under the country’s strict blasphemy law.
An unnamed source said: “I just spoke with a lawyer who does not want to be named. She is a Muslim who has spoken out a lot against the way the judiciary has handled Aasiya’s case. While Christians see this as an answer to prayer (Wednesday’s court decision), from where she is standing she feels unnerved by today’s ruling.
“I think Aasiya is more at risk than ever. This has paved the way to rile up the extremists and create an urgency to destroy her and raise the profile of their cause: the removal of minorities from Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“This is just a stay. Don’t get too excited. Aasiya is not free until she is free. This can drag on for another 20 years.”
In response to the latest developments, a woman at a Christian center in Pakistan said: “Our God is bigger than any of these fears. In Jesus’ name we will see victory for the Church and the enemy’s plan will be thwarted.”
The women who sat with her responded in unison: “Jai Masih Ki,” which literally means “Hail King Jesus/Glory to Jesus.”
Bibi, 50, was the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws when she received the death penalty on Nov. 7, 2010 after allegedly making derogatory comments about the Prophet Muhammad during an argument with a Muslim woman. She was found guilty of blasphemy under Article 295C of Pakistan’s penal code, which imposes death sentences for offenses of defamation against Muhammad.
The Muslim woman had refused water from Bibi, a colleague, on the grounds that it was “unclean” because it had been handled by a Christian. The Muslim woman and her sister were the only two witnesses in the case, but the defense failed to convince judges that their evidence lacked credibility.
Bibi was first arrested in the summer of 2009 and has since been confined to prison, mostly in the high-security District Jail Sheikhupura, 22 miles northwest of Lahore, and now in the women‘s jail in Multan.
Fifteen Pakistani Christians are currently believed to be facing the death penalty for blasphemy, including Sawan Masih, whose alleged blasphemy during a conversation with a Muslim friend in March 2013 resulted in the looting and torching of hundreds of homes within the predominantly Christian Joseph Colony in which he lived.
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Christy Lynn Wilson at 770-401-9842.