On Monday the 20th of December at 7.30 pm Wakefield Cathedral is holding a service of prayer for Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman who has been given a death sentence for blasphemy.
She denied all charges and had appealed her case but it took several appeals from international organisations including Christian Solidarity Worldwide and the World Council of Churches to get her sentence suspended.
The Pope has condemned her sentence and called for her release. He said, “the international community is following with great concern the difficult situation of Christians in Pakistan, often victims of violence or discrimination. I pray for those who are in similar situations that their human dignity and their fundamental rights be fully respected.”
Despite these appeals she is still in prison in Pakistan and has been since June 2009.
Although no-one sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan has actually been put to death by the country, people accused of blasphemy are seen as the worst criminals by the people of Pakistan. This means they are subject to bullying and violence in prison and also when they are released.
An example of this happening was reported by the BBC in July when two men accused of blasphemy were killed outside the court. Rashid and Sajid Emmanuel were shot dead by masked gunmen when they were being escorted from the court by police.
Wakefield Cathedral will be holding the prayer service for Asia in partnership with Pakistan Christian Concern.
Canon Yaqub Masih, Chairman of the Pakistan Christian Concern, said, “We want to pray for Asia and her family as they are going through very difficult time. We also want to highlight the plight of other Christians”.
He gave an exclusive interview to Pukaar News, where he said, “I am very sad. People use the law as an excuse for going after Christians. The blasphemy law in Pakistan should be changed or amended. People who make accusations of blasphemy which are found to be false should be punished. If this happens to a few people other people will think more before doing it.”
He added that even if Asia is freed, she is in too much danger to stay in Pakistan especially since Maulana Yousuf Qureshi, an Imam at the Mohabat Khan Mosque, offered half a million rupees to the person who kills her if she is freed from prison.
Canon Yaqub Masih hopes that 200 people will attend the service at Wakefield Cathedral, including Syed Sail Abbas, Consulate of Pakistan who is based in Bradford. There will also be the Mayor of Wakefield, the Bishop of Wakefield and police officials.
Canon Yaqub Masih told Pukaar News he hopes this service will not only highlight Asia’s case but also “raise awareness of others in prison for their faith”.
He added that he would urge people to write to both the British and Pakistani government because something needs to be done to amend Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.