Pakistan High Court upholds Asia Bibi acquittal—many Christians still held on blasphemy charges

ASIA BIBI will be free: On Jan. 29, 2019 the Supreme Court of Pakistan upheld its decision rendered last October to acquit the Christian woman of charges of blasphemy that had kept her on death row for eight years. Asia Bibi is now free to join her two daughters in Canada, where they were granted asylum. The ruling marks a setback for fundamentalist Islam in Pakistan.

Aid to the Church in Need supports the suffering Church, including in Pakistan, where almost 200 Christians are in prison accused of blasphemy against Islam
Asia Bibi (photo by BPCA)

However, here are nearly 200 cases of Christians in Pakistan charged with blasphemy, reported Dominican Father James Channon, director of the Peace Center in Lahore, which promotes inter-faith relations. He said that research by the Catholic Church had revealed 187 live cases of Christians charged with blasphemy which in Pakistan can carry sentences of life imprisonment or death.

Father Channon said: “Even now, after her acquittal, Asia Bibi is anything but safe. Radical Islamists are trying to find her so they can kill her. That is why she remains under state protection.”

He highlighted the suffering experienced by so many people accused of blasphemy, irrespective of the outcome of their cases. The priest said: “The blasphemy law destroys the lives of those who have been accused, even if they avoid being executed.”

He added: “Any time Christians are accused of supposed blasphemy, all Christians in a particular region are indicted with them. This often leads to acts of violence against Christians.”

Among the 187 current cases, the former provincial of the Dominican order in the country highlighted the case of married couple Shafqat Masih and Shagufta Bibi, who are on death row on charges of sending blasphemous text messages. He said: “Their prospects are very weak. Even should they be acquitted, they and their children will no longer be able to live in Pakistan. Fanatic Muslims will try to kill them.”

—John Pontifex