Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Danger surrounds Asia Bibi in Pakistan

In June 2009, Asia Bibi was arrested in Pakistan 2009 for her Christian witness. In Pakistan today, militant Muslims view Asia and courageous Pakistani evangelists as blasphemers. They are offended and angered by the truth of the gospel, and they think they are serving Allah by burning churches and jailing or killing Christians.

Before Asia Bibi's arrest, she worked picking berries for a farmer in Pakistan's Punjab province. One day when she brought water to her Muslim co-workers in the field, they refused to drink it, saying the cup had been contaminated by an infidel thief. The Muslims taunted Asia because of her Christian faith, saying that her prophet was born without a father. Asia responded, "Our Christ sacrificed his life on the cross for our sins. What has your prophet done for you? Our Christ is alive, your prophet is dead. Our Christ is the true prophet of God, and yours is not true."

Asia's co-workers reported her "blasphemous" words to the village's Muslim religious leaders. Five days later, several mullahs and local Islamists forced Asia from her workplace and took her by motorbike to the village center. She was then beaten by a crowd that had gathered there, and she was not allowed to defend herself against the blasphemy accusations made against her.

Asia was arrested and taken to jail. Her guards told her that if she would convert to Islam, they would let her go. But she refused, telling them, "You can kill me, but I will not leave my Jesus."

Seventeen months after Asia's arrest, she was convicted of violating subsection C of Pakistan's 295 blasphemy law - blasphemy against the prophet Muhammed - and was sentenced to death. Christians have called for Asia's release and for a repeal of the laws, while extremists in Pakistan continue to demand that she be executed.

Maulana Yusaf Qureshi, an imam at Peshawar's well know Mohabbat Khan mosque in northwestern Pakistan, has issued a fatwa against Asia, offering a $6,000 reward to anyone who kills her. Her family and friends are concerned that she could be murdered by another prison inmate or guard, or even poisoned by kitchen staff. She is confined to her prison cell for her own safety, and she cooks her own meals using groceries provided by her husband.

Though Asia cannot read, she keeps a copy of the Bible in her prison cell. A female Christian is allowed to read the Bible to her. She also prays with Asia.

Asia's Defenders Killed

Amid the controversy over Asia Bibi's death sentence, two Pakistani politicians were murdered for publicly supporting her. Governor Salman Taseer had visited Asia in prison on Nov. 20, 2010, and called for her release. Governor Taseer, a Muslim, was shot to death on Jan. 4, 2011, by his own bodyguard. The bodyguard said he killed Taseer because the governor supported a repeal of Pakistan's blasphemy law.

Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian and long-time champion of Christian rights in Pakistan, was killed by four gunmen who opened fire on his car as he drove to work on March 2, 2011. Bhatti had received many death threats because of his support for Asia Bibi and his ongoing efforts to repeal the blasphemy law.

Shortly before his death, Bhatti released a video testimony in which he said he would not be deterred by threats against his life made by those who "want to impose their radical philosophy in Pakistan." Bhatti said, "I believe in Jesus Christ, who has given his own life for us. I know what is the meaning of the cross ... and I am ready to die for a cause. I am living for my community and suffering people, and I will die to defend their rights."

Asia Bibi and many other Pakistani believers are under fire from Islamic extremists. But they continue to uphold the cross of Christ so others may know the truth. As their brothers and sisters, we are their voice around the world. Together, we will witness to all men of what we have seen and heard (Acts 22:14-15).

(from a Christian prayer letter, July 2011)

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