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Blasphemy accused Pakistani Christian woman's plight triggers demonstrations across the UK


The plight of a Pakistani Christian mother of five who has been jailed for seven years under the notorious blasphemy laws of Pakistan, will be highlighted in several demonstrations across the UK.

The protests have been organised by the British Pakistani Christian Association and Pakistani origin Pastors throughout Britain, in response to the protracted silence of the Government of Pakistan with regards to Asia's ongoing Supreme Court appeal.

Asia Bibi was arrested in June 2010 for an alleged blasphemy after she drank well from a well designated specifically for Muslims. Fearful Muslims berated Asia and threw water offered to them at Asia, as they believed her ritual impurity had contaminated the water from the well. In response to the abuse hurled at her Saviour Jesus Christ, Asia simply replied: "My Christ died for me what did Mohammed do for you?" This question led to her being raped and beaten and her children were sexually molested, yet in Pakistan's unjust nation only Asia was arrested.

The first of the protests is to be held in London and will be supported by the Christian People's Alliance (CPA). The protest will begin at the Pakistani High Commission at Lowndes Square and will travel to 10 Downing Street on 4th February 2017.  

"The Christian Peoples Alliance is demanding that the Government cancel its £405million per year aid to Pakistan until Asia Bibi is set free. Sid Cordle MBE CPA leader said in a speech today

"Pakistan is a sovereign nation and they can make their own laws but there comes a point where what a country is doing is so bad the international community has to say 'enough'.

"They did it with apartheid in South Africa where people were treated as second class citizens because of the colour of their skin.

"Well right now in Pakistan people are treated as second class citizens because of their faith and Asia Bibi is another Nelson Mandella thrown into prison for no other reason than she is a Christian and said so. This has to be stopped".

He will repeat this call outside the Pakistan High Commission on 4th February.

The protest is being supported by several groups including Pastor Ajmal Chaughtai (Birmingham), Sid Cordle (Christian Peoples Alliance), Pervaiz Sardar (Nottingham Pakistani Christians), Ranbir Singh (Hindu Human Rights Group), Lynne Julius  (HARIF representing Middle-Eastern and African Jews), Mohammed Shoaib, Vinny Masih (Nelson Pakistani Christians), Harrisson Summit (Scottish Asian Christian Fellowship) to name a few.

A full schedule of all the protests can be viewed here:

Date:       4th February 2017
Time:      10:00 - 11:00 and 12:00 -13:00
Location: Pakistan High Commission, 34-36 Lowndes Square, London,  SW1X 9JN 
Details:    A procession will leave Pakistan High Commission at 11:00 and arrive at 10 Downing Street for 12:00 for a one hour protest.

Date:        11th February 2017
Time:        12:00 - 14:00
Location:   Pakistani Consulate, 45 Maxwell Dr, Glasgow G41 5JF   
Details:      Protest will finish at 14:00 and a delegation will travel to Edinburgh to submit petition to     Scottish Parliament.

Date:         17th February 2017
Time:         16:00 - 18:00
Location:  Pakistani Consulate, Pakistan House, 137 Dickenson Rd, Manchester M14 5JB 
   Visitors are kindly requested to bring candles.

Date:         18th February 2017
Time:         12:00 - 14:00
Location:  Pakistani Consulate,10A, The Wharf, Bridge Street, Birmingham, B1 2JS

A petition will be presented to each of the Pakistani diplomatic buildings, 10 Downing Street the Welsh Council and the Scottish Parliament.  The petition calls for Pakistan to ensure Asia Bbi has a fair trial and that she is protected from harm in a nation that despises her because of her faith.  The electronic petition can be signed by(clicking here). This is the largest petition hosted by a Pakistani Christian group and so has has a special mandate and has close to 20,000 signatures. The BPCA is calling for people of good conscience to sign the petition and join us in solidarity.

Protesters are calling for the British Government to intervene on behalf of Asia Bibi, who they say was falsely accused of denigrating the Islamic prophet Muhammed. They seek diplomatic engagement between the British and Pakistani Governments to ensure that Asia has a fair trial and that her family, the judiciary and legal team representing Asia are protected from the many hard-line Muslims in Pakistan.

A letter will be submitted to 10 downing street accompanying our petition. The letter will also call for UK   Government to reconsider the £445 million of foreign aid given to Pakistan. With a desire that the aid be terminated unless Pakistan significantly improves its poor human rights record.

Wilson Chowdhry, said:

"This case demonstrates the cruelty, inequality and divisiveness of Blasphemy Law under islamic sharia law towards non-muslims and is something that is wholly unacceptable in a true democarcy."

"Asia Bibi has suffered the ignominy of seven years of imprisonment on trumped up charges because her faith was offensive to Muslims.

"People of good conscience everywhere have demanded justice for Asia, moved by the plight of an innocent mother of five.

"Pakistan's government have failed in their duty to Asia and the Christian minority amongst them as a whole, their failure has been a blight on Pakistan's already tarnished reputation.

"Please pray that this appeal is expedited and that a truly honourable judge is able to reach a rational verdict, based on evidence heard without any duress."

He added:

"Major donors such as the UK and the USA need to  start to use their substantial foreign aid budgets to Pakistan as leverage for better human rights - with real conviction. 

"Britain's official policy involves tackling poverty by generating sustainable growth and employment, as well as focusing on education and health, all worthy goals.

"Some of the poorest Pakistani citizens are Christians, and unfortunately they are typically kept there by a combination of debt-slavery and direct and systematic religious oppression, frequently including systematic sex slavery and targeting of Christian girls and women for kidnap, rape, forced conversion and marriage.

Britain and the US simply must use their aid budget to remove this social disparity."

Asia Bibi is a Christian mum-of-five sentenced to death by hanging and currently on death row in a Pakistani prison. Her crime? She had been picking berries for paid work in the village of Itan Wali, Punjab, in June 2009. Then she offered water to a fellow human being after drinking at a rural well - without realizing followers of Christ were not allowed to relieve their thirst there, only Muslims. The harsh social norms of Pakistani culture means that Christians are 'untouchables' – the lowest denominator. 

Sounds harsh and unrealistic?

Asia Bibi's story is a perfect example of the above 'untouchable' claims. She suddenly found herself in a heated discussion with local Muslim women who made fun of Christianity on that fateful day when she fetched water. Asia, defending her beliefs, asked: “Jesus died on the cross for us, but what has Mohammed done for you?” This simple statement caused a frenzy amongst her Muslim co-workers. They instantly called her pro-Christian comments 'blasphemy', although she had every right to discuss her faith under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (of which Pakistan is a signatory).

The horrifying result was that Asia was brutally beaten and raped. Her two daughters, one with special needs, were also abused by the mob and some reports suggest sexual assault was involved. Her husband and five children are now in hiding while she waits to be executed. An appeal was refused in October 2014 and Asia is vulnerable to attacks inside the remote prison – even though a death sentence is still levied against her. In spite of all she faces, Asia has stayed true to her Christian faith.

Pakistan's Blasphemy law is an ever-present weapon of discrimination which looms over Christians in Pakistan. This is a law that we at the BPCA have constantly condemned because a significant reform, or abrogation, is desperately needed. As in the case of Asia Bibi, blasphemy charges are laid with flimsy evidence simply on the account of a Muslim witness against a non-Muslim (it is more complicated with Muslim-to-Muslim charges).

Some 50 per cent of blasphemy charges are made against Muslims in blasphemy cases – and the other 50 per cent levied against non-Muslims who make up only five per cent of the population. These facts show the unbalanced hatred meted towards minority faiths. Christians make up just 1.6 per cent of the overall population and yet 15 per cent of blasphemy charges are laid against followers of Christ. Recent figures indicate this percentage is set to grow.

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