Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi has been sentenced to death row in Pakistan thanks to the country's strict interpretation of blasphemy laws. However, she will be given a chance to appeal for her freedom.
According to a report issued by Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association, 50-year-old Bibi was given one last chance to vouch for her freedom after a Pakistan Supreme Court appeal date was set for July 22. Chowdhry urged Christians around the world to pray that freedom and justice would be served through the courts.
"I am pleased at this early date, the legal process in Pakistan can be so delayed," BPCA officer Mehwish Bhatti said, relaying information from a solicitor involved in Bibi's case. "Perhaps the international pressure felt by our Government has resulted in the expedition of her case. I hope that this time the courts make the right decision and free sister Asia."
Bhatti described the conditions Bibi faced during her imprisonment in Pakistan.
"Six years in a dingy, dark cell in complete isolation will no doubt have caused great trauma, especially when coupled with a nation's unfair hatred," Bhatti said.
According to Chowdhry, the mother of five was "gang-raped, beaten and has served five years imprisonment." Bibi was imprisoned for her faith after saying "My Christ died for me, what did Muhammed do for you?"
"Her words have deemed by most religious experts from all faiths to be a harmless question that exhibits little to qualify as a blasphemy, yet Asia has been forced to cook her own food from raw ingredients and to live in isolation due to significant threats, bullying and attempts at taking her life," Chowdhry wrote.
According to Chowdhry, the people who attacked and condemned Bibi are still free, including the rapists, the women who beat her, and the imam "who preached hatred towards her." He blasted Pakistan's blasphemy law, describing it as "draconian" and "a tool for discrimination, vendettas and hatred."
"The impunity with which perpetrators of false charges can stir up community hatred, magnified by the intolerance and similar permission for mosques to preach hatred, have created a toxic situation for minorities," Chowdhry said. "They are now fleeing Pakistan in their droves with thousands upon thousands being re-persecuted in South-East Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Sri Lanka."
Chowdhry warned that the West's failure to focus on the plight of Pakistani Christians could backfire one day unless action was taken.
"This has culminated in seeping extremism and hatred in the countries of the West which, if unchallenged, will one day result in similar terror closer to home," Chowdhry said. "It is time for a global strategy that recognizes the need to resolve conflict and hatred in the Islamic world to stem precipitating animosities in countries foolishly deemed safe."
In an exclusive report by Helen Roberts and Taniya Dutta of the Daily Mail, Bibi's husband, 54-year-old Ashiq Masih, mentioned that his family, who is currently in hiding, had been "broken" by the pain of living without her. He elaborated on the incident that led to her imprisonment and death sentence.
"A group of women suddenly told her not to drink from the bowl and an argument erupted," Masih said, noting that Bibi was getting some water from a nearby well. "My wife will argue back, she is bold, so she stood up for herself. But the women argued and then started mentioning our religion - asking silly questions."
Masih pointed out that his wife was abused by the women because she was a non-Muslim who was unfit to touch their water bowl.
"We'd been targeted by villagers for a long time and they often taunted us," Masih said. "There had been many arguments over drainage problems and water pumps, always something to fight over. Whenever we said God gave us water to share, they would get very angry and warn us not to speak."
According to the Daily Mail, Bibi was beaten, dragged through the streets, and had a noose placed around her neck as news of the incident spread to the entire village. Her accusers then went to the local Muslim cleric, and police eventually arrested her on blasphemy allegations.
"I had this constant fear that they would arrest my children and me too," Masih said. "If they could arrest Asia for doing nothing then they could arrest us too."
Masih added that Bibi "is my soul mate" and that "life has been non-existent without her."
"My children cry for their mother, they are broken," Masih said. "But I try to give them hope where I can."
Bibi's husband disclosed to the Daily Mail that even if she is freed by Pakistan's Supreme Court, the Muslim clerics have placed a bounty from £60 to £3,200 (about $94 to nearly $5,000) on her head.
"I am planning our protection," Masih said. "If she is set free I hope we're moved to a safer country as Pakistan cannot protect her."
Although Chowdhry hoped for the best, he pointed out to the Daily Mail that two key politicians were killed for standing up to Pakistan's blasphemy laws.
"In a country with such animosity against Christians, I don't believe a Supreme Court judge will be brave enough to exonerate her," Chowdhry predicted.
Masih stood by his wife, noting that "she's not made any mistake."
"We all know she's not committed any crime," Masih said. "We all know how Pakistan treats Christians. She was framed, she never committed any crime."