Our vision is to create a network of Pakistanis united in Christ, focused on better quality of life, fellowship and religious freedom for Christians in Pakistan and the UK.
Christianophobie Hebdo held a 2000 strong protest in Paris, France for victim Asia Bibi:
A story in french can be viewed (click here) and (click here)
They interviewed Our Chairman Wilson Chowdhry for the forth coming weekly edition of Christianophobie Hebdo:
1. In your capacity as Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association how do you react upon the decision of the High Court of Lahore upholding the death sentence for Asia Bibi ?
With frustration and sadness, but no especial surprise. It is normal for Christian blasphemy victims to be convicted at a lower level when huge pressure from Islamic clerics and extremists are brought to bear on local judges, and then for the sentences to be overturned at a higher court. However, what is significant is that reports from Christian lawyers at the court reported that the same Islamicist mob, including a group of Islamist lawyers who routinely try and prevent justice in blasphemy cases against Christians, were there in force, and putting great pressure on the judge. Pakistani society is getting more and more radicalized and extremist; it’s like a tide that keeps getting higher and higher. The level of pressure that could be exerted on lower judges is starting to be applied to higher courts also.
2. Are you supportive of global and peaceful christian street demonstrations aimed at freeing Asia Bibi or are you considering that they might be counterproductive ?
We have been doing our own protests, both in the past, and now. I don’t think they are counterproductive per se. They send a message, but the more people involved, the greater the weight. I think they are necessary, but aren’t enough. The issue is finding the right balance of resources and effort. Remaining silent is not an option, but speaking effectively is a balancing act. What I think might be counterproductive is the focus on Asia Bibi to the neglect of many other victims of blasphemy laws. There are a number on death row, and many more in prison or awaiting trial – not to mention those acquitted or otherwise not in jail but living in fear of their lives, having to live in hiding, on the run, rootless and restless. The danger is that if she gets out alive, or wins the appeal, people in the West will feel good about themselves because the case that caught the international media attention has been ‘solved’, and will drift off while the fundamental problems remain. Maybe another case might make headlines again, but maybe not. And in the meantime, many others will fall prey to the extremists and the blasphemy laws.
3. Some reckon that only governments and diplomatic pressures might get some kind of Presidential clemency for Asia Bibi. What's your feeling ?
Well, for a start, extremists have already worked hard several years ago to block that route. The prosecution lawyers got the High Court to block a presidential pardon. Yes, government and diplomatic pressure are vital, but remember that the internal pressure in the opposite direction is incredibly strong. Partly this is an honour thing. For the extremists, those who support blasphemy laws and death in such cases – and that is a very large portion of the Pakistani population, if you look at the polls and surveys that are quite regularly done – will be determined that international pressure from the infidels will not get in the way of Sharia law and the ‘honour’ of Islam and it’s prophet. This will be especially the case after Rimsha. One got away, so there is a greater determination not to ‘lose’ this one. For that reason, if she is set free, then like Rimsha Masih, it will be vital to get her and her family out of Pakistan, before they get murdered or lynched. You can guarantee that many clerics and groups would call upon their listeners to kill them. Indeed that has already been happening.
4. Is there a reasonable hope that the Pakistan's Supreme Court could overturn the death sentence as it did in the case of Rimsha Masih ? And how long could it take?
Define reasonable hope! In a reasonable world, she
would never even have been brought to court, let alone been sentenced to
death. I think there is a reasonable hope, but then, there was a
reasonable hope that the appeal would have won at the last level, but it didn’t
happen. The Supreme Court did rule in Rimsha’s favour, and I don’t know
what level of politics was involved in what happened there. As to how
long, I really don’t know. The last appeal was postponed many
times. The Pakistani justice system is notoriously slow, for the most
part. It could go fast, particularly if there was a perceived need to get
the case out of the international public eye, as seems very much to have been
the case with Rimsha, or if there is an assessment that a long time period
would let her case drop off the international radar then it could be dragged
out and dragged out to try and let that happen. Rimsha was such a
firestorm because of her age and apparent learning difficulties. Asia
does not have that, but there is the inherent injustice and the children – but
then these are also usually factors in the other blasphemy victims that
languish in effective anonymity.