Adapted from Adrian Butcher, ACNS
Campaigners for a young Christian Pakistani woman on death row on blasphemy charges have urged members of the Anglican Consultative Council to step up their efforts for her release.
The case of Asia Bibi was raised at ACC16 in Lusaka. Members passed a resolution (16:43) urging that her case be investigated again and that she be honorably acquitted. Asia Bibi has been on death row since 2010. Her appeal will be heard next month.
She was accused of insulting the Muslim prophet Muhammad during a conflict about her drinking water from the same cup as her Muslim colleagues.
Shunila Ruth, ACC member for Pakistan and coordinator for women in the Church in Pakistan, said council members needed to increase the pressure for Asia’s release.
“ACC members need to lobby their governments,” she said. “They need to press Pakistan to free Asia. And, more than that, they need to call for Pakistan to revisit the blasphemy law. It needs to be tackled; it is inhuman.”
She added that Asia’s case was not unique. She told ACNS of one young man in Punjab who had been emailed downloaded material that breached the law. He had neither sought it nor downloaded it. But when news got out, there was an uproar.
“The whole village came under threat and he was forced to flee for his life,” she said. “He is now in hiding.”
Phil Groves, coordinator of the Anglican Communion Peace and Justice Network, echoed the call to support Asia Bibi in a letter to ACC members.
In it, he said the ACC’s support had lifted the spirits of the Church in Pakistan’s members. But he urged members to do more, including writing to their governments to ask that they raise the issue with Pakistan; signing an online petition; and urging their churches to pray for and support the campaign.
Shunila Ruth discussed the blasphemy laws with the Archbishop of Canterbury when she visited Lambeth Palace on Sept. 10-11. They also spoke about the economic vulnerability of Christians in Pakistan and the issue of forced conversions. She also met the British parliamentarian, Jess Philips, who has worked with British Pakistani women in Birmingham who have suffered domestic violence.
Asia Bibi’s family and supporters have launched an online petition, A Call for Mercy, calling for her release.