Keep Praying for Aasia Bibi

On 31 October 2018, Pakistan’s Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Aasia Bibi, who had been sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam. Mrs Bibi, who is barred from leaving Pakistan, has been in hiding since. Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan and other groups organised violent protests following her acquittal, making death threats against her and the judges who had reached the verdict.

A lawyer representing a provincial cleric in Punjab who had filed the initial blasphemy charges against Mrs Bibi has petitioned the Supreme Court requesting that the judges review her acquittal. Similar reviews have taken years to process.

According to Aid to the Church in Need, Joseph Nadeem and his family, who have assisted Mrs Bibi and her husband for some years, are themselves in danger and living in hiding together with the daughters of Mrs Bibi. “Just as soon as Aasia was acquitted, we were forced to flee”, he recalls. “Aasia and her husband are currently in a place of safety, protected by the government, but we could not remain with them”, he explains. Ever since then Mr Nadeem and his family, together with the daughters of Aasia, have had to keep on the move, changing homes four times so far.

Several countries have offered asylum to Mrs Bibi and her family, but some Brtish newspapers have claimed that British Prime Minister Theresa May refused an appeal by Home Secretary Sajid Javid to offer Mrs Bibi and her family asylum in the UK. They allege that the request was turned down by the Prime Minister over fears that it could stir up tensions among British Muslims and compromise the safety of British officials in Islamabad. During Prime Minister’s Questions, Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith asked the Prime Minister if there was any truth to the reports. She replied that he ‘should not necessarily believe everything he reads in the papers’ and insisted that Britain was working for the ‘safety and security’ of Mrs Bibi and her family. Rehman Chishti resigned as Conservative Party Vice Chairman and the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Pakistan, citing Britain’s failure to offer asylum to Mrs Bibi as one of the reasons.

Aasia Bibi Acquitted

On 31 October, Pakistan’s Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Aasia Bibi, who had been sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam.

Bibi, a mother of four, has been living on death row since 2010 when she became the first woman to be sentenced to death by hanging under Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws.

She was condemned for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbours objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim.

The judges said the prosecution had “categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt”. The case was based on flimsy evidence, they said, and proper procedures had not been followed. The alleged confession was delivered in front of a crowd “threatening to kill her”.

Chief Justice Saqib Nisarm, who read out the ruling, said Bibi could walk free from prison immediately if not wanted in connection with any other case.

On 13 October, Khadim Rizvi, the leader of a new political party dedicated to punishing blasphemy, Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP), announced he would “paralyse the country within hours” if Bibi was freed. She has been offered asylum by several countries and was expected to leave the country if acquitted.

For more information and guidance on how to pray, see this Barnabas Fund article.

American Pastor Released from Wrongful Detention in Turkey

We praise and give glory to God for the release from prison in Turkey of Pastor Andrew Brunson.

Pastor Andrew, a U.S. citizen from Black Mountain, North Carolina, was imprisoned in Turkey for the crime of “Christianization”. After extensive negotiations, the Turkish government released Pastor Andrew from prison on July 25th but placed him under house arrest.

Today, the Be Heard Project reported that Pastor Andrew is preparing to leave Turkey to return home to the United States.

Read the full story.

Pakistan Supreme Court Reserves Judgment in Aasia Bibi Case

Today, 8 October, the Supreme Court of Pakistan reserved judgment in the blasphemy case lodged against death-row convict Aasia Bibi.

Bibi,  a mother of four, became the first woman to be sentenced to death when she was convicted of blasphemy in November 2010.

Her case has outraged Christians worldwide and been a source of division within Pakistan, where two politicians who sought to help Bibi were assassinated, including Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who was shot by his own bodyguard.

The ultra-religious Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party, which makes punishing blasphemy its main campaign rallying cry and lionises the bodyguard who killed Taseer, warned the court against any “concession or softness” for Bibi.

“If there is any attempt to hand her over to a foreign country, there will be terrible consequences,” TLP said in a statement.

During the two hours, 45 minutes hearing, a three-judge special bench highlighted several discrepancies in the statements of prosecution and court witnesses in the case.

An expert in criminal law, Justice Khosa noted that the prosecution case was weak due to discrepancies in the statements of their witnesses. The statements, he observed, lacked details about the quarrel between Aasia and the accusers.

Justice Khosa pointed out that there were two versions about the filing of the complaint: the first one said the application was given to police near a river while the second stated that the application was submitted in a police station.

Bibi was sentenced to death for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbours objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim.

Bibi has always denied blaspheming and her representatives have claimed she was involved in a dispute with her neighbours and that her accusers had contradicted themselves.

Based on reports by The Express Tribune and Reuters.

Intolerance – in the United Kingdom and Cambodia

Rev Ross Rennie, Director of Grace Missions, recently wrote to Mrs Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He assured her of his prayers, and those of many other Christians, regardless of political views or affiliation, who accept the authority of the Bible’s injunction in 1 Timothy 2: 1-2 to pray for all who are in authority. He wrote,

You are my prime minister and as long as you decide to keep your position I and the true Christian church of Jesus Christ will pray for your protection, for wisdom for our nation, to heal the wounds and rebuild this country, to root out bigotry and hatred in our nation, so as an Englishman I and others can be proud again of our nation and our democracy.

Ross also alerted the Prime Minister to two dangers which cause him great concern.

The Intolerance of the British Media

In his letter to Mrs May and another to the Director General of the BBC, Ross expressed his disappointment and anger at how the BBC has abandoned the value of impartiality with which it was founded and has become a platform for elitist, anti-Christian, anti-Brexit views. This is symptomatic of the way our news media have been corrupted.

To quote The Christian Institute,

The BBC has openly mocked the beliefs of millions of Christians and others with socially conservative views in its election commentary.

During an interview on Monday morning, Radio 4 presenter John Humphrys laughed at former MLA Nelson McCausland when he stated that the DUP’s policies are “compassionate”.

The BBC also ran a sizeable feature highlighting mockery of the DUP’s socially conservative values by various satirists.

Other media outlets have attacked the party for its views on sexual morality and marriage in recent days.

Telegraph columnist Dr Tim Stanley said the hostility shown towards the DUP because of its stance on same-sex marriage and abortion shows that mainstream Christian beliefs have become toxic in politics.

Writing about the resignation of Tim Farron as leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, who said, “To be a political leader… and to live as a committed Christian… has felt impossible for me”, Andrea Williams, CEO of Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre, said,

“Tim Farron’s treatment demonstrates that Christians are simply not tolerated by the illiberal elite in positions of influence. This, alongside the widespread reaction to the DUP’s views on abortion and same-sex unions, is further evidence of this anti-Christian morality.

“The vilification of the DUP for its opposition to abortion and same-sex unions and castigation of Tim Farron is shocking and upsetting. If we continue in this crusade of ‘totalitolerance’, we will enter a harsh and conformist world where Christianity will be ‘no platformed’ and eventually squeezed out of every sphere of public life. The elite determines what are toxic unacceptable views. Unless you approve of their ‘new morality’ you are punished. At first comes the loss of privilege, a political position, a place at university, then the detriment: the refusal of a grant and ultimately criminal sanction.”

The Intolerance of Opposition in Cambodia

Ross wrote to Mrs May about the possibility of violence in Cambodia if the opposition party wins next year’s general election:

Many in Cambodia are very concerned about the possible actions of Mr Hun Sen, the Prime Minister, who has over many years marginalised all opposition even back to the time in 1997 when using his control of the army he ousted Prince Norodom Ranariddh when they were first and second prime ministers in a coalition government.

For many years Hun Sen has been seeking to neutralise the principal opposition party and he has made repeated threats that he will hold on to power, if necessary using military force, even if his party loses in the general election.

When Ross wrote to Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary, asking to discuss this with him, he was told he was too busy. Instead he was assured that the British government was giving money to Cambodia for election monitoring. Ross suggested to Mrs May that this was like giving money to Hitler to protect the Jews.

Alarm Bells

The alarm bells are ringing.

The tendency of the authorities in the United Kingdom seems to be to ignore them and only take action when it is too late, whether it is erecting barriers to protect pedestrians on London’s bridges or enforcing fire safety standards in high-rise buildings. Christians should be different.

  • It was said of the sons of Issachar they were “men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do….” (1 Chronicles 12: 32).
  • The Lord said to Ezekiel, “If the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.” (Ezekiel 33: 6)

Where are the watchmen? Who will speak up? Who will give a warning? What will you do?

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