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July 14, 2015

Wilberforce A!ert: Blasphemy Laws Should Be Illegal

Asia Bibi is languishing on death row in Pakistan.  The reason: her Christian faith.

This tragic situation began in June 2009, when a Muslim woman working as a field laborer alongside Asia refused to touch the “unclean” water source from which Asia – a Christian – drank.  This led to a verbal quarrel between the two women and subsequent allegations that Asia made blasphemous remarks against the Muslim prophet.

Today, Asia’s family is pleading for her life, saying she is so weak that she can no longer walk because of intestinal bleeding.  In late June, as she marked six years in prison, her family called anew for this 50-year-old mother of five’s release. 

In November 2014, Asia Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, published an open letter to the international community that relayed the following quote from his wife: 

“My prison cell has no windows and day and night are the same to me, but if I am still holding on today, it is thanks to everyone who is trying to help me.  When my husband showed me the photographs of people I have never met drinking a glass of water for me, my heart overflowed ... You are my only hope of staying alive in this dungeon, so please don’t abandon me.  I did not commit blasphemy.”

Unfortunately, Asia’s is not an isolated incident.  The open letter from Ashiq Masih came days after a mob burned a Christian couple alive in an industrial kiln for allegedly burning pages from a Quran.  The 24-year-old wife and mother of four, Shama Bibi (no relation), was pregnant.

The Pew Research Center reports that 70% of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa criminalize blasphemy, as do 16% of European countries and 31% of the countries in the Americas.

This is why U.S. House Resolution 290 is so critical.  Introduced by Representative Joe Pitts (R-PA) and currently cosponsored by Representatives Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Juan Vargas (D-CA), the resolution calls for a global repeal of blasphemy laws and asks the United States President and the State Department to make the repeal of such laws a priority.

Representatives Pitts, Jackson-Lee, Franks and Vargas deserve our congratulations for their leadership in addressing this pressing and global injustice.  They also need our full support as their offices work to ensure passage of this resolution.

The 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative has already signed onto a multi-faith letter urging Congress to support this important initiative.  Your engagement is also essential.  In the words of Asia’s husband, “No one should be killed for drinking a glass of water.” 

You can:

1. Send a note of support to Representatives Pitts, Jackson-Lee, Franks and Vargas, thanking them for their bipartisan and forward-thinking leadership as they pursue this endeavor.

2. Call, email or write to your elected representative indicating your support of H. Res. 290 and asking him or her to do the same.

3. Use your voice to press for the release of Asia Bibi.  Post a picture of yourself drinking a glass of water to your social media page, link to this report and add the hashtags #Pakistan, #ReleaseAsiaBibi.

4. Send a picture of yourself drinking a glass of water to the Pakistani Embassy, thanking the government for the times it pursues justice in blasphemy cases and requesting Asia Bibi’s immediate release.

Embassy of Pakistan, Washington D.C
3517 International Court NW
Washington, DC  20008
(202) 243-6500, FAX: 202-686-1534

Category: Asia , Christian , Muslim
Region: Asia
Keywords: Asia Bibi,blasphemy laws,Pakistan,killed for a glass of water,Pakistan religious persecution,freeAsiaBibi,21st Century Wilberforce Initiative,21 Century Wilberforce Initiative,21CWI,21 Wilberforce,Wilberforce

Elijah Brown

Elijah Brown, Ph.D. is Executive Vice President of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. Brown received his Ph.D. in Divinity from the University of Edinburgh. He was an Associate Professor of Religion at East Texas Baptist University, where he also served as the founding Director of the Freedom Center. In 2007, Brown was named one of 35 global emerging leaders by the Baptist World Alliance, a network representing 40 million Baptists worldwide.

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