01/26/2011, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Pakistani Christians: day of fasting and prayer for the release of Asia Bibi

Jibran Khan
Sponsored by the Bishop of Islamabad, the event is scheduled for January 30. The same day, Islamic fundamentalists have launched a "national protest" against changes to the blasphemy law. Bishop Anthony: We want to promote "peace and harmony" and the release of the Christian woman.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - On January 30 Pakistani Christians will celebrate a "day of fasting and prayer" for peace in the country and the salvation of Asia Bibi, the 45 year old mother of five sentenced to death for blasphemy. It is in response to the march of the Islamists, who will also hold a "national protest" on the same day against any changes to the "black law" and for the execution of the Christian woman. In recent days, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in different cities of Pakistan, stressing that they are prepared to "sacrifice their life” to defend the honour of the Prophet Muhammad.

Bishop Anthony Rufin of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, has launched an appeal through AsiaNews inviting Christians from all over the country to observe a day of fasting and prayer January 30 next. The prelate clarifies that the initiative aims to promote "peace and harmony," and raise awareness for the "release of Asia Bibi" held in prison pending appeal and threatened with death by Islamic fundamentalists. "It's a critical time - said the bishop - for Christians in Pakistan. So far, two things have dominated the thinking of our society: the megalomania (considering ourselves to be the best) and paranoia (that the world is conspiring against us). "Bishop Anthony adds that he met Ashiq Masih, husband of Asia, and their children. The youngest, Esha, confessed to the bishop in a low voice: "Now it is clear that they have taken away our rights to life and livelihood."

The Masihi Foundation, a human rights organization based in Lahore pleading the cause of Asia Bibi, wants the appeal process to take place in prison - in Sheikhpura, where she currently is being held, or Multan - for "security reasons" . The activists are willing to private security, in the case of transfer to the women's prison in Multan.

If Christians call to fasting and prayer, fundamentalists are dragging the crowds in the streets to support the "black law". On January 23 demonstrations were held in all major cities including Lahore, Karachi, Bahwalpur, Multan and Rawalpindi. In Lahore, about 1,500 people chanted slogans and threats, claiming to be ready to "sacrifice their life<2 to defend the honour of the Prophet Muhammad.

The extremist wing confirms the national demonstration scheduled for January 30, the day also will start the march to the capital Islamabad. The radicals want to get assurances from the government that the blasphemy law will not be repealed and Asia Bibi is executed. The protest will include the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q), which confirmed the presence of party members.

 

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