On Saturday 24th February 2018 the Pope met the husband and youngest daughter of Asia Bibi who shared accounts of the captivity of Pakistan's most famous
blasphemy victim.They were joined by Rebecca Bitrus, a young Nigerian Christian woman, who fled from Boko Aram terrorists after two years of captivity.
While the meeting took place the Colosseum in Rome was bathed in red light at 6 pm (local time) in solidarity with all those who are persecuted for
their faith. Organised by Aid to the Church in Need.
The Maronite Cathedral of St Elias in Aleppo (Syria) and the Church of St Paul in Mosul in Iraq were also bathed in red light at the same time - a
symbol of the blood of martyred Christians.
Asia Bibi's daughter, Eisham Ashiq, told a Vatican News reporter that she believes her mother "will
be released from jail soon," though they will have to "leave Pakistan immediately, as her safety cannot be guaranteed."
Eisham Ashiq and Ashiq Masih prior to their meeting with Pope Francis
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the BPCA, said:
"I have never stopped praying for sister Asia. Her pain is one that is felt by the entire Pakistani Christian community. Her bravery through all the terror she has had to face is an example to us all and I really hope the global effort to see her release comes to fruition."
"Though I am less trusting of Pakistan's Court system and Government then Eisham, I am aware of renewed calls for Asia's freedom from the EU and the US. Sadly countries like Canada and Britain are still choosing to ignore the human rights abuses that are confirmed in Pakistan. Their choice to continue increasing funding and trade with the nation is a blemish on their international reputation.
"If Asia Bibi is to be set free and the nation of Pakistan to become a more egalitarian nation, it will never be through their own volition but through the efforts of a combined international effort to 'encourage' Pakistan to comply with international laws. I am praying that Britain and Canada and other western nations in dialogue with Pakistan quit realpolitik and engage the nation with more constructive diplomatic intent."
Image provided by Aid to the Church in Need - published with permission.
Asia Bibi was accused of blasphemy after she drank water from a cup that was designated for Muslims. When she offered water to Muslim colleagues
it was thrown at her as they reprimanded her for contaminating their cup with her ritual impurity. As they berated her person, her family, and
her faith she mildly accepted their anger. However when they cursed her Lord Jesus Christ she simply uttered the words: "My Christ died
for me, what did Muhammed do for you?" This resulted in her being beaten, raped and attacked with her children the following day at her home, during
which other local Christians called the police to place her into safe custody. Later that same day an Imam who had not been present at the attack
at her work or her home alleged she had committed a blasphemy and the rest is a blight on Pakistan's history.
Since then Asia Bibi has been on death row and the subject of numerous campaigns from watchdog groups calling for her freedom. Her final Supreme Court
appeal hearing was initially scheduled for October 16th 2016, but the hearing was postponed after one of the judges pulled out of the case for an 'alleged
conflict of interest', (click here) which Judge Iqbal Hameed ur Rehman
discovered on the day despite being aware of the case for some time.
In May 2015, BPCA organised a private interview between Ashiq Masih, husband of Asia Bibi and the Daily Mail. During the interview Ashiq described
the bounty on Asia Bibi's head (click here).
Bibi's plight has also prompted United States Sens. Rand Paul and Chris Coons to implement a joint resolution earlier in April 2016 calling for Pakistan
to release the Christian mother.
"No one, in any part of the world, should be victimized for freely and peacefully practising his or her beliefs. I urge the government of Pakistan to release Asia Bibi and work to promote an inclusive and pluralistic society, starting with reforming its blasphemy laws," wrote
Senator Rand Paul, said: "My heart goes out to Asia Bibi as she continues to endure her unjust imprisonment in Pakistan. It's time for Pakistan to immediately release Asia Bibi and put a stop to the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities."
Recently a representative of the European Union has warned the government of Pakistan that trade with the EU could be restricted if Asia Bibi is
not set free.
In a press release on the European Cooperation with Pakistan Website which be read (here),
the EU decision was made public:
"Jan Figel, the special envoy of EU for the promotion of religious freedom around the world, in his recent visit to Pakistan candidly communicated to the Pakistani government that the future continuity of GPS plus status of Pakistan will be directly linked to the positive outcome of Asia Bibi’s blasphemy case.
"In 2013, the EU awarded the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) plus status to Pakistan, allowing duty-free access to the EU markets. With this appealing international export facility, the country was allowed 20 percent exports to EU markets at zero tariffs and another 70 percent at preferential rates.
"Since the grant of the GSP plus status, the EU countries have become the leading destination of Pakistani exports with the remarkable increase of 53.6 percent bearing a value of 6.173 billion during the year 2016. The cessation of GSP plus status will cause a severe blow to the sinking economy of the country and will not be able to compete with local competitors like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka."
"The EU communicator stressed the need to resolve Asia Bibi case because Italy, one of the EU strategic partners, is pushing hard to parallel the renewal of GSP plus status with the release of Asia Bibi, an internationally known Christian victim of false blasphemy charges languishing in the Pakistani prison for the last eight years."
On October 2017, Attempts were made to award Asia Bibi the Sakharov prize, the EU's highest honour, for the bravery and fortitude she has come
to represent. (click here)
Surprisingly it has gone unnoticed that Canadian Prime Minister Mr Trudeau's government had entered trade talks with the Pakistani government who
has been rather hypocritically lodging human rights complaints against India for their behaviour in Kashmir against Sikhs. (click here) Given Pakistan's treatment of religious minorities, including Sikhs such a complaint seems entirely disingenuous. (click here)
International Trade Minister Michael Chan from Canada's largest province Ontario also meet with Commerce Minister Mr. Pervais Malik promising the
same removal of trade barriers despite the human rights abuses that continue in Pakistan. (click here)
This desire to remove trade barriers with a country like Pakistan is even more shocking considering that Alberta and Saskatchewan recently had
a trade spat where Alberta boycotted British Columbia wine for not following through with a previously signed agreement. (click here)
On the 12th, 13th, and 14th of February 2018 the Canadian Government met to discuss removal of trade barriers with Pakistan, while claiming to
be concerned about human rights and with great flourish and pride declared its intentions to expedite the remove what the Pakstani government deems
"irritants" as soon as March 2018. (click here)
On 4th February 2017 BPCA led a protest calling for Britain to intervene on behalf of Asia Bibi (click here).
Pakistan is Britain's largest recipient of foreign aid with over £445m given for 2017.
If you would like to contribute to our regular appeal for Asia Bibi and her family please click (here) BPCA Chairman Wilson Chowdhry - AKA MC WIZARD, was a guest rapper on a freedom song for Asia Bibi which was produced in 2013 by Catholic band Ooberfuse. Please watch the video (click here) Please sign our petition for Asia Bibi (click here)