Bishop of Islamabad calls Asia Bibi Case A Disgrace
Bishop Rufin Anthony says the blasphemy law must be repealed
Bishop Rufin Anthony says the blasphemy law "must be repealed; it does not fit with 21st century world " Petitions to save Asia Bibi and repeal the blasphemy law have begun in Pakistan, Italy, USA, India, France. Within hours, the AsiaNews site received over 500 signatures. Even cloistered monasteries pray for Asia Bibi. A proposed text to send to President Asif Zardari. Asia Bibi, sentenced to death in Pakistan for being a Christian
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AsiaNews) - "It's really a shame", says Msgr. Rufin Anthony, Catholic bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi in comments to AsiaNews about the death sentence against Asia Bibi (see photo), the woman convicted of blasphemy in Pakistan's Punjab state. The prelate stresses that the law is abused and manipulated for petty reasons and it is time to repeal it to make Pakistan a modern country.
"In the villages - the bishop says - there is a lot of meanness. I asked a woman about the characteristics of her [Asia Bibi] village. She replied immediately: Malice, envy, apathy and brutality. Here is the full picture. Can this justify the killing of a good person? The answer is no! I think that the blasphemy law should be repealed, is not at all suited to the world of the 21st century".
Already, a year ago, the Justice and Peace Commission in Pakistan had asked for the abolition of the blasphemy law, collecting more than 75 000 signatures from Christians and Muslims. AsiaNews had helped to spread their campaign in Italy and at the European Parliament (see dossier Save Christians and Pakistan from the blasphemy law).
These days, after the ruling against Asia Bibi, many nongovernmental organizations in the country are gathering signatures for the same reason. In a few days more than 40 thousand signatures have invaded government offices calling for the liberation of women.
Aid to the Church in Need has also launched a signature campaign in France and Italy. Other groups in India and the United States have launched campaigns against the blasphemy laws.
AsiaNews launched its campaign yesterday urging its readers to "do something", and in a few hours collected more than 500 signatures from Italy, the USA, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, India, Great Britain, ...
Among the first to sign up, were Fr. Samir Khalil Samir, the famous Egyptian scholar on Islam, Phil Lawler, editor of U.S. Catholic, Kenneth Lewis, president of International Christian News, David Cantagalli, editor. There are also several messages from cloistered monasteries, praying for Bibi Asia and Pakistan.
As reported yesterday, the campaign asks you to save Bibi Asia and Pakistan, by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
, or directly to President Asif Zardari to this address: email@example.com
Some readers have asked for a basic text to be sent as a message to President Zardari. Here it is:
To Mr Asif Ali Zardari,
The President of Pakistan
November -----, 2010
Asia Bibi's death sentence is not just a sentence, it is a State crime.
Therefore I hope you will not permit that, not only because of your sense of Justice but also because it is badly affecting the reputation of your country.
Please intervene as soon as possible to reduce the pains Asia Bibi and her family are suffering.
Moreover the constant deliberate persecution of Pakistani Christians through the law on blasphemy is offending the Almighty God more than any human being.
» 11/17/2010 16:16
People around the world signing petition to save Asia Bibi
In two days, more than 1,300 people sign a petition launched by AsiaNews to save the life of the Pakistani woman sentenced to death on false blasphemy charges. Hundreds of messages have come in from Spain and Latin America, but also Vietnam, China and Malaysia. Hundreds of women protested yesterday for Asia Bibi against the blasphemy law.
Lahore (AsiaNews) – “Asia Bibi is innocent. Saving her is not a political act, but a moral obligation towards all persecuted Christians,” wrote one reader. “The blasphemy law destroys coexistence and Pakistan’s development,” said another. They are but two of a long list of people who have signed the petition launched by AsiaNews on 15 November on behalf of Asia Bibi (pictured during her trial), the Christian woman sentenced to death in Punjab after she was falsely accused of blasphemy.
So far, some 1,500 people have signed the appeal, which was picked up in Malaysia by the local Catholic weekly newspaper, the Herald. Individuals and news agencies elsewhere have also picked up the story and sent it around the world. Hundreds of messages are coming in from Spain and Latin America, but also Vietnam and China.
Despite the dangers, various organisations like Justice and Peace have organised demonstrations in Pakistan. Various initiatives have also been undertaken to free the woman. Yesterday in Nankana (Punjab), hundreds of women, Christian and Muslim, demonstrated in front of government offices, demanding her immediate release.
“The women of Pakistan are taking action: the case of Asia Bibi nags at our conscience. There is an urgent need to repeal the blasphemy law,” said Saman Wazdani, a Muslim and a human rights activist.
For her, Pakistan’s entire legal system needs retooling. “Trial courts are left to themselves,” she explained. “They have old structures that are not transparent and they often interpret the law incorrectly. We urgently need a comprehensive judicial reform”.
In the meantime, the Conference of the Jamiat Ulema Pakistan (JUP), which represents about a third of all religious parties, said it was against repealing the blasphemy law.
For the ulema, the law cannot be touched. Otherwise, they promise to take to the streets to demonstrate, violently if need be, should it be changed or corrected.