After being sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010, Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi is now asking for the prayers of Pope Francis and Christians worldwide, as her appeal was dismissed by the Lahore High Court earlier this month.
Bibi is accused of allegedly making derogatory comments against Mohommad in an argument with a Muslim woman over a cup of water. Bibi denies the charges, and her lawyers are planning to appeal the decision to Pakistani Supreme Court as soon as possible.
According to Nasir Saeed, director of the Centre for Legal Aide Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), a Christian organization that works to support persecuted Pakistani Christians, says that courts have a reputation for persecuting minorities simply because of their reputation.
Saeed says “While the rest of the world condemns such draconian laws, Pakistan continues to persecute its minorities simply because of their religion.”
A Pakistani Christian youth, who spoke to EWTN concurred with this, saying Christians like himself “are treated (like) third class citizens, and to settle their personal agendas and litigations the accusation of blasphemy is an easy way to settle personal revenge and grudges.”
This prejudice was evident in the courtroom as well, when “around 25” mullahs came to the hearing “to apply pressure and push for the sentence…to be upheld.”
“It is not surprising that the judges were swayed by pressure from local influential Muslims, but I had hoped that justice would prevail and that the case would be judged based on its merits” said Saeed.
Catholic leaders both in Pakistan and at the Vatican have spoken out against the persecution of Bibi for her religion.
In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI called for Bibi to be granted “complete freedom … as soon as possible;” after the allegation was upheld in high court earlier this month, Bishop Rufin Anthony of Islamabad-Rawalpindi called the decision “heartbreaking.”
Bibi is now reaching out directly to the Vatican—no longer simply for support, but for prayers for her life. “Pope Francis,” she wrote, “I know you are praying for me with all your heart. I know that thanks to your prayer, I could be set free. In the name of the Almighty Father and his glory, I thank you for your support in this moment of suffering and disappointment.”
She says that in this time of distress, her faith is the only hope she has left. “I am holding tightly onto my Christian faith and trust that God my Father will defend me and give me back my freedom,” Bibi said in her letter. “I also trust in you, Holy Father Francis, and in your prayers.”
As her case enters the Pakistani Supreme Court, Bibi hopes that she may still be granted freedom through the prayers of Pope Francis, and Christians throughout the world, however unlikely that may seem at this point.