Outraged Christians call for freedom for Asia Bibi
Outraged Christians in Scotland converge at Pakistan consulate to call for freedom for Asia Bibi!
Dozens of protesters converged outside the Pakistani Consulate in Glasgow to call for Freedom of Asia Bibi, Pakistan's most famous blasphemy law victim. They believe the Christian mother of five who has been jailed in Multan for over seven years should be set free.
During a meeting with the First Minister at the Pakistani High Commission in London, Chairman of the BPCA, Wilson Chowdhry was informed that a date for Asia Bibi's Supreme court appeal trial would be fixed by the end of March. An earlier appeal trial was postponed after a Judge on the day of trial objected to preside over the case due to an alleged conflict of interest. He retired form his post a month later in a debacle that is believed to have been triggered due to threats to his life from extremists if he or any other judge set Asia Bibi free.
In the chill winter air of Glasgow on Saturday 11th February 2016, Glaswegians would have thought they were imagining the strange calls for freedom for a Christian in Pakistan as despite the consulate being known by local Police as the most common location in their city for protests, it is rare for Pakistani Christians to protest.
In fact a small group of local residents even came to protest against our protest as they had been disturbed so many times by other demonstrations that had caused a disturbance to their every day lives. However when they heard the shocking story of the plight of Asia Bibi and other Christian victims they left us to our work with their blessing.
Protesters came from all over Glasgow and though their may only be 500 Pakistani Christians in Glasgow over 50 of them turned up despite warnings of potential snow and a temperature of -2 degrees centigrade. The youngest protester was a toddler and the oldest was in his eighties and the event illustrated that Pakistani Christians in the UK really do care for the plight of Asia Bibi and other persecuted in Pakistan, despite none of their London counterparts making it to our Pakistan High Commission and 10 Downing Street protest.
Pastor Fredrick Dacosta who presides over a 70-strong congregation of Pakistani Christians in Glasgow, sent a live feed of the demonstration through Facebook. The event was also filmed by C44 News in Pakistan who now have a UK office.
Demonstrators called for freedom for Asia Bibi and judges brave enough to preside over her landmark case that has created great schism in the country.
Pastor Fredrick Dacosta, said:
"Asia Bibi is innocent. Her incarceration for seven years is a human rights abuse that must be rectified. She has neither committed a blasphemy or any over crime that deserves the punishment she has received.
"The real criminals always get away - this is a deplorable reality in Pakistan.
Pastor George Gill, said:
"Time and time again we protest for justice on Pakistan and nothing changes. Our people bleed in Pakistan and the west ignores their plight.
"We must redouble our efforts and not lose hope, as our God is great God and one day he will take vengeance for his people - it is not for us to seek vengeance our hope is in our Lord."
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:
"Asia Bibi is close to insanity she has been deprived of human contact and her dignity. She has watched as a never-ending failure by the Pakistani legal system has shattered her hopes for freedom time and time again.
"Yet throughout this turmoil this brave, frightened woman with worsening health conditions has sought the help of her God. At the times of her darkest torment she has found solace in prayer and has never contemplated leaving her faith even though accepting Islam under duress could set her free.
"This woman's life is a testament to us all. Whether she lives or dies in that brutal, cruel prison in Multan in which she is despised by Muslim inmates and prison staff alike - her grip on personal liberty and the right for freedom of belief and conscience has shown how the human spirit can be resolute against the evils of this world.
"For Christians she has shown how faith in God can give an inner peace and that this temporary world contains nothing that can shackle truth.
"I for one will continue my challenge for her freedom and call for people of good conscience to rally for this innocent woman.
BPCA is calling for people moved by the plight of Asia Bibi to sign their petition. A letter and a copy was submitted in the Pakistani Consulate of Glasgow. BPCA do not believe the consulate will provide a response as they have failed to do so on numerous previous occasions.
You can sign our petition for Asia Bibi by (clicking here). The petition has already attained 18,304 signatures and is the largest Pakistani Christian led petition - which gives it the strongest mandate.
BPCA are also asking Britain and America who have ploughed billions of pounds worth of foreign aid into Pakistan since the war on terror began, to reconsider these funds unless Pakistan improves it's poor human rights record.
An Imam (Islamic religious leader) in Pakistan accused Asia Bibi of a blasphemy in 2009 for drinking water from a well that was exclusive for Muslim's. He determined that her Christianity made her ritually impure therefore contaminating the water. He also accused her for blasphemy for saying "My Christ died for me what did Muhammed do for you.' a response she uttered whilst being beaten and ridiculed for her faith after she had offered water from the well to Muslim co-workers.
Asia Bibi has been incarcerated in the most brutal conditions, living in isolation and forced to cook her food for fear of poisoning after several failed attempts. She sees the light of day once every three months for about an hour and her sanity is reaching breaking point - some say only her devout faith has kept her sane so far.
After Asia's initial Supreme court appeal was adjourned due to Judge Iqbal Hameed-ur-Rehman declaring a conflict of interest on the day of the hearing, faith in Pakistan's creaking legal system waned even thinner. The same judge retired from the legal profession within a month.
About 150 top Muslim clerics (muftis) from the radical Islamist group Sunni Tehreek issued a statement which demanded that the government hang Asia Bibi and all other prisoners of blasphemy laws; and demanded a speedy trial of all cases still pending. They also issued a verbal decree that all those who might rescue those accused of blasphemy or who assist in trying to rescue them should be killed.
At least 150 Christians, 564 Muslims, 459 Ahmadis and 21 Hindus have been jailed under blasphemy charges since 1986. The cumulative total of blasphemy cases therefore illustrates a huge disparity in the number of minorities prosecuted as they make up 5% of the total population but just over 50% of all blasphemy cases.
A former Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer and the only Christian politician to sit within the Federal Parliament Shahbaz Bhatti were bot assassinated in 2011 for calling for freedom for Asia Bibi.