Pakistan (MNN) — It’s been just over a month since Asia Bibi, a Christian woman in Pakistan, was finally acquitted of blasphemy charges. She was convicted of blasphemy back in 2010 after a dispute with Muslim female coworkers. Bibi served the following years on death row as Christians worldwide prayed fervently for her release.
Since Asia Bibi’s acquittal, there have been various reports on her asylum status and where she may be now. Of course, the first priority is the safety of Bibi and her family. Her status is being kept tightly under wraps.
Bruce Allen with FMI shares the latest: “At this point, it has been said that she has not left the country. There was some speculation that she may have immediately left the country after being released from prison. But from what even other countries have said, they have not issued any visas to her.
“We’ve been told that Asia Bibi is in a secure location like a safehouse sort of scenario, but many people inside Pakistan are speculating she is already at a foreign embassy — perhaps the Dutch Embassy…but of course, there is no confirmation of that. The Dutch Embassy wouldn’t confirm that even if it were true, and many of their staff have been recalled back to the Netherlands as they have reduced the activities that are being offered or the services being offered.”
Bibi’s defense lawyer, Saiful Malook, fled to the Netherlands after the Supreme Court verdict was announced. Threats were made on his life, as well as on the lives of the Supreme Court judges and Bibi’s family.
“We would think this is a clear-cut case where asylum is needed for her and her family. Yet, the truth is, sadly, that visas for asylum are very difficult to obtain and it can take years for that to happen,” Allen explains. “We’re still working on issues for brother Ahmed in Pakistan who was also acquitted of blasphemy charges, trying to get a different type of visa for him because we’ve been informed it could take ten years to get a visa for asylum.”
Meanwhile, the extremist protests and riots that took over Pakistan with red-hot rage have dwindled a bit but are far from over. Many protests have been orchestrated by the Pakistani Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) party — a political party pushing for stringent blasphemy law punishments.
“The protests this party and others have staged in Pakistan during the last year have been deadly, have been violent, and have been destructive of property across society. The government has been trying to clamp down on the TLP party and its leadership. In the last couple of days, they have arrested more than 400 members of that party, a lot of its leadership, along with local leaders and workers across the country.”
A TLP party leader and Muslim cleric named Khadim Hussain Rizvi has been detained and charged with terrorism and sedition. He orchestrated some of the recent, violent protests.
Allen says the force of these riots following Bibi’s acquittal by the Supreme Court shows the mentality of justice in Pakistan.
“Once you are charged with this crime, it doesn’t matter if you have committed it or not. People just want to see you killed.”
Meanwhile, Muslim extremists are venting their anger by threatening other Pakistani Christians and churches.
“FMI leadership in the country has been speaking with the different church planters and evangelists and encouraging them to follow particular security protocols and how they should guide their congregations in the days ahead. The church members could naively or very innocently get into trouble with people who are looking for reasons to attack or abuse Christians.”
Please continue to pray for the Lord’s protection and provision for Asia Bibi and her family. Allen also asks that we also pray for Pakistani Christians, especially as we head into the Christmas season.
“We want to pray for these churches in general. Number one, [pray] for the leadership, the pastors, the boards of elders or deacons they have, that God would grant them exceptional wisdom to understand their culture, to understand the needs of their congregations, and guide them very effectively.
“We pray for God’s provision for these congregations. We have a project going on right now where we’re trying to develop a security and response initiative for dozens of established churches in Pakistan so not only can they better protect their congregations against attack, but that they are also equipped to respond to the trauma of attacks that can easily happen.
Finally, Allen says, “We pray for the hearts of Christians themselves so that they would not become hard or bitter against their neighbors — the majority of whom are Muslim — but that they would still have this softness and tenderness and the compassion of Christ that wants to share the Gospel with them. Even in the cases of persecution or abuse and oppression, [pray] that they know how to bless and forgive their enemies.”
Header photo courtesy of Open Doors USA.