As international pressure grows for the release of Asia Bibi — a Christian mother of five who faces a death sentence in Pakistan for alleged blasphemy — local Church officials are trying to dampen down protests lest they provoke Islamic extremists.
“Instead of making noises, we would prefer to keep quiet and wait for the high court to hear her appeal,” said Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, who directs the National Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan.
“We understand the concern behind such international campaigns,” he said. “But the life of this woman is very important to us, and we will not do anything that would endanger her life.”
Two prominent Pakistanis have died as a result of protesting against the blasphemy law.
The Muslim governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was assassinated for advocating a presidential amnesty for Bibi, and Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic who was federal minister for minority affairs, was assassinated after he initiated a clemency petition.
Bibi (also known as Asia Noreen) has been in prison since 2009 after some fellow farm workers complained she had made derogatory comments about the prophet Muhammad. In 2010 she was sentenced to death by hanging.
Pope Benedict is among those who have urged clemency for her.
According to French journalist Anne Isabelle Tollet, who has written a biography of Asia Bibi, even the woman’s husband and five children are suffering from the blasphemy accusation.
“They are all living [under] the threat of death and have gone into hiding, frequently moving house and unable to go outside or to work. The children miss their mother badly and have stopped going to school for their own safety,” she said.
The latest campaign for Bibi’s release has come from Ooberfuse, a Christian pop band based in the United Kingdom. The award-winning band has produced a song called Free Asia Bibi, which can be downloaded from Ooberfuse.com.
Image: Voice of the Martyrs
News category: World.