Pakistan (MNN) — Her story reads like a conspiracy theory novel. The main character is a 50-year-old woman, falsely accused. She languishes in jail for six years, charged and convicted of a federal crime with no evidence, and no recourse.
The problem is: it’s not fiction. It’s Asia Bibi’s story. Bruce Allen with Forgotten Missionaries International says the mother of five was accused of blasphemy in Pakistan. Voice of the Martyrs USA recounts the early part of the case:
On June 19, 2009 there was an intense discussion among the women about their faith. The Muslim women told Asia about Islam, and, according to VOM sources, Asia responded by telling the Muslim women that Jesus is alive. “Our Christ sacrificed His life on the cross for our sins…. Our Christ is alive.”
That led to a beating and a blasphemy accusation. In November 2010, Bibi was convicted under the blasphemy penal code, and sentenced to death. An appeal has been filed with the Supreme Court, but there’s no word on how soon the case will be heard.
Time is running out for Bibi, says Allen. “She’s suffering from internal bleeding. She requires urgent medical treatment. She vomits blood. She suffers terrible pain, and she can hardly eat.” In the meantime, “Here’s this woman, languishing in a prison under this death sentence for a crime that she vehemently denies.”
Multiple news sources indicate her lawyers have requested that officials move Asia to a prison in Lahore, which would make it easier for her to receive medical treatment, as well as see her family more often.
If nothing else, Bibi’s case serves as an international focal point for justice for minority Christians. Allen explains, “Under the current law, the abuses are enormous against religious minorities in Pakistan.” For example, they have been and can be used to settle personal scores between neighbors. The accused have little hope of defending themselves because the charge of blasphemy by a Muslim usually serves as sufficient evidence of the crime.
Although there is a reform effort underway, there’s a long way to go yet to get the bill signed into law. Allen also considers the possibility of increased harassment and outright persecution in the days ahead. “If the law is going to be changed into a better thing, potentially, they may say, ‘Well, now is the time that we have to take action while THIS is still the current law and it is easy to abuse.'”
In the meantime, more than 150,000 Christians have signed a petition demanding justice for persecution victims, including Asia Bibi. The Voice of the Martyrs and other Pakistani brothers and sisters in Christ are lifting their voices in a call for mercy. They’re hoping to gather a million signatures on her behalf. (Click here for the petition).
Allen says Bibi is not alone. In the days ahead, he’s asking you to pray for Christians in Pakistan. Between Ramadan and the disturbances generated by the reforms, “Pray for the Christians in the area to remain steadfast, that they would experience God’s protection and provision.”
Their work will continue on. Many people are coming to saving faith in Christ through the ministry of nearly 30 national pastors and evangelists, supported by FMI who often maintain ministries in multiple cities and rural villages. FMI also provides tangible support, such as bicycles for pastors’ transportation, materials for church site construction, and helps maintain a network of safe houses for persecuted believers.