Pakistani Supreme Court Orders Release of Aasiya Bibi; Christians Fear Reprisals

Asia Bibi is prevented from leaving Pakistan

November 7, 2018

The recent ruling in favour of Asia Bibi by Pakistan’s Supreme Court brought the entire nation of Pakistan to a stand still. Riots and large-scale protests by extremists shook the entire nation.

The Pakistani government announced an agreement with the extremists responsible for protests across the country since Asia Bibi was cleared of blasphemy.

The government promised not to oppose the petition for a legal review of Asia’s acquittal and that her name would be added to the Exit Control List, which contains names of people not allowed to travel outside the country.

The government also pledged to take action against the possible deaths of protesters and that all people arrested because of the protests will be immediately released. Meanwhile, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP, the party responsible for instigating the protests) said it would call its supporters to cease the demonstrations and apologize to those who experienced ‘inconvenience’ because of the protests.

The deal was announced on November 2nd and by Saturday, November 3rd morning, most protest sites had been cleared and mobile phone services had been restored.

Protestors will come back

At a press conference, TLP leaders claimed that other points were agreed upon. According to one leader, Pir Afzal Qadri, the Supreme Court will form a full bench, without the three judges who ruled in Asia’s case, and review the decision which was rejected ‘by the whole nation’. “This is for the first time that the whole country came to a grinding halt following a Supreme Court decision,” he said.

He also warned, “We have also made it clear to the government party that all protesters will come back to their protesting positions, if there will be any mistake.”

Shockingly, Qadri told media that Asia has been placed under detention again and that a plane from the UK, which was about to take her to a Western country, has left without her.

A plea for God’s intervention

This agreement comes as a big set back. Asia’s life, along with that of her husband and children and the legal team assisting her is in danger.

The Open Doors family worldwide as well as Christians in Pakistan – pray that God will change the hearts of the Pakistani government and the judicial powers, and give them courage to stand up to militancy and to give Asia and Christians a fair chance at a future. We pray that Asia and her family will be able to leave Pakistan and that those involved in her case will be offered protection.

We also plead with other governments to engage peacefully but without compromise with Pakistan and to keep the country accountable to fair human rights standards.

We also request Christians worldwide continue to pray for Asia, her loved ones, and all our brothers and sisters in Pakistan. Asia has put her faith in God. We must do the same.

Pakistan is at number 5 on the Open Doors World Watch List. In partnership with local churches and other ministries, Open Doors supports the church in Pakistan through training, literacy and vocational projects, emergency aid and trauma therapy.

Your prayers and gifts today can help our local church partners to bring strength, encouragement and practical support to Christians in Pakistan, as well as showing them that they are not alone.

 

Pakistani Supreme Court Orders Release of Aasiya Bibi; Christians Fear Reprisals

October 31, 2018

The Pakistani Supreme Court has just (Oct 31, 2018) ordered the immediate release of Aasiya Bibi, the Christian woman who has spent over 8 years on death row. According to the official ruling, prosecution has categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. The judges quoted extensively from the Quran and other Islamic scriptures, saying among other things that non-Muslims were to be dealt with kindly.

“We are relieved to hear that the Pakistani Supreme Court has dropped the charges against Aasiya Bibi—charges that were based simply on her Christian identity and false accusations against her”, an Open Doors spokesmen said. “This decision gives us hope that Pakistan will take additional steps to increase freedom of religion and human rights in the country.”

In the meantime, local Christians have asked Open Doors to call for prayer around the world. A few days ago, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the Chief Cleric of Hardcore Extremist Group Tehreek Labek Pakistan (also known as Khaatm-e-Nabooat) in a video message has called upon his followers to come out on the roads and be ready to do and die in case the verdict of Supreme Court came out in favour of Aasiya Bibi.

Mumtaz Qadri, the killer who killed Governor Salman Taseer in daylight in the capital in 2011 belonged to this school of thought and group. Governor Taseer was killed for supporting Aasiya Bibi and opposing the misuse of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws.

“This is a highly tense and threatened situation for the religious minorities, especially for Pakistani Christians and there is fear of persecution of Christians and attack on their Churches and other properties”, Open Doors partners shared. “Therefore, we call upon the Government of Pakistan and the Supreme Court to take notice of the threat call made by Khadim Rizvi and his Group prior to the announcement of Assia Bibi verdict. We also call upon to ban Tehreek Labek Pakistan and all similar Extremist Groups who are involved in hate speech and use religion as a tool to promote violence in the society. We also call upon the Government and law enforcement agencies to beef up the security and ensure the deployment of military troops to safeguard the lives and property of religious minorities, especially the Christians and Churches.”

“Be imitators of Christ”

At the same time, church leaders ask their fellow Christians to behave in a manner worthy of Christ. “We call on Christians across the country and around the world to pray and proclaim. To demand our right to justice but to do so in a manner befitting Christians committed to be imitators of Christ. Do not destroy property, do not violate people, do not fall into the trap of violent and aggressive behavior. In response to this verdict please hold back from making any comments that could be used against you.”

The church leaders continue by saying, “These groups are on high alert and will be watching for any way to increase the pressure against Aasiya, Christians and the Church. Let us strive to demonstrate restraint, no use of aggression or physical violence can make up for our loss as a Nation and a community. We are a match as a praying people let us trust God and ensure that we demonstrate Him and His Good News at this time. Let us be compassionate to those who mourn and suffer at this time and let us be prepared with our resources to serve this nation at a time when a blood bath could easily occur. Be willing to become a public care servant, to demonstrate God’s desire for justice, mercy and humility. If you have medical skills or social work skills, be willing to use them. Be watchful, vigilant and calm. God be with us all to Him be all the Glory.”

Responses from Christians

“God is good”, responded a local Christian after learning about the verdict. “Pray for Pakistan. The situation is unfolding. I’m on my work and I see the rangers come in to take over security. Please pray for God’s mercy and wisdom and for God to do an amazing work in this land.”

Not much later, (certain) offices and schools were closed. “Our staff members are concerned about their children, especially the ones who attend a school with a Muslim majority. Pray that while they travel home they are not recognized as Christians and won’t draw any attention.”

A mother waiting for her child to come home, shared with us: “‘Joy, anger, fear, disbelief, fear again, rejoicing, trusting, fear, questions, surrendering: God is in control: surely we will overcome’ quote from a mother waiting for her child to come home from school.”

“I should have been on the flight with her”

We just received a touching letter from an ALIVE team member (ALIVE is the network of churches OD partners with). The team member writes: “I am crying. It’s been a long long journey. I was supposed to be on this flight with her. That’s changed. I won’t get that first hug and debrief that was assured by those previously in charge. But that’s ok. She is free. We all feel we have been given wings to fly over this. To soar on this day when we were beginning to feel weary and when we can see the fires of hatred being set around us as protests begin on street corners.

We have learnt so much. We have met so many. Some so frilly and frothy and some like flint, unflinching like Jesus. I am crying because in all these years of living her story over and again I have ached that this woman may not even know what is on her shoulders. How much she has meant to her people and the part she has played in raising the prayer profile of a nation often signed off as ‘failed’.

I have ached because in this voyeuristic world people have wanted her story like flesh and I have seen it sold and money made on her name and she has sat quietly languishing. Now she must rest. She must heal. How I wish I could hug her and cry into her shoulder and tell her that all the company partners have been praying and working tirelessly on her behalf. I have in the past wanted to look her eyes and know if she got the care parcels and it’s ok now if she didn’t but I used to want to know if she was warm when we prayed for warmth and cool when we knew she must be sweltering. My questions have all changed today. I want to know only this: Aasiya, do you know how many people absolutely love you and how much God has watched over you? The care parcels do not matter any more.

I am scared of the feeding frenzy waiting for her. But I know a woman of strength and courage is being given her wings back. Please pray for her safety. She is a woman of courage and strength and she did not leave Jesus. Aasiya was the face of the unchurched. We bound by an indelible bond by the prayers we as a team have prayed. We can’t believe as a team she is free.

First was the shout of joy that she was free, then the prayerful silence then the frenzy to get the team to safety and now when I know my team are home safe and I wait for news that our kids are in their homes safely it hits me again : my sister has been given her wings, Justice has prevailed. As I watched the rangers drive by I was dazed. There was the Collective high that we all felt released from this prison. But then this awareness of something else that is dark is at work lurked. Then this profound sense we have wings and God has called us eagles. God has heard our prayers. Thank you for walking with us all our friends in the wider company.

The women in our office fell down and worshipped at Alive Lydia center. God is in control. God has not left us. God’s hope remains in this land. Hallelujah. Today not only Aasiya was released: we all were. A God of mercy and without injustice, good and upright is He’.”