- The Catholic Church of Pakistan today celebrated a Wednesday of Prayer and
Fasting on behalf of Sawan
Masih and Asia
Bibi, two victims of the Asian country's controversial blasphemy laws.
been sentenced to death and are awaiting for their appeal process to start. Meanwhile,
several civil society organisations and ordinary believers have joined the initiative
"in favour of the persecuted Christians".
and religious leaders led various peaceful demonstrations in Lahore and
Islamabad in "a sign of kinship and solidarity."
Asia Bibi has
become a symbol of the struggle against the "black law". Since she
was sentenced to death in November 2010, she has been on death row, held in solitary
confinement for her own security. After several delays and long prevarication, her
appeal trial should start on 14 April.
a 26-year-old Christian from Lahore, was recently convicted in a lower court,
on false charges made by the person with whom he had a personal disagreement.
actions led to a targeted attack minority Christians in the Joseph Colony in Lahore
in which Islamic extremists set fire to hundreds of homes and two churches.
High Court is set to hear his appeal on 25 July 2014.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr Asher Arshad, from the
Archdiocese of Lahore, noted the "encouraging response " that came in
recent days from civil society groups who decided to respond positively to a call
for fast and prayer on behalf "of Asia Bibi and Sawan Masih, both persecuted
because for their faith."
In fact, "As
we pray and fast" for the two victims, "we join our Christian brothers and
sisters in solidarity," said Aqeel Mehadi, a human rights activist from
Muslim," he added, "I am disgusted by what has happened and what continues to
Ali Jinnah, the Founding Father of modern Pakistan, he said that the latter always
stressed in his speeches the principle of religious freedom, imagining a
liberal and multicultural nation where all citizens have "the right to
practice their religion and not be imprisoned because of their faith."
"It is indeed
sad to see that what has become of Pakistan," said Fr John Barkat,
a priest and activist in Lahore.
a handful of fanatics have promoted intolerance and paved the way for sectarian
violence; as a result we have witnessed incidents like those in Shanti Nagar,
Gojra and Joseph Colony. Let us therefore fast and pray for the persecuted in
In a statement, the
Masihi Foundation and Life for All Pakistan also said, "Blasphemy remains a
hugely sensitive issue in Pakistan. The blasphemy laws in Pakistan are used to
settle personal vendettas [. . .]. We peacefully protest against Masih's
sentence and demand justice for Asia Bibi."