Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas in Pakistan; not for Asia Bibi

More than three years in a Pakistan prison and she is finally paraded before a group of journalists and the NGO International Masihi Foundation.  Looking nothing like she did when this ordeal began, the report spells out a terrible time for Asia, and you can read her pain and anguish in each word and physical reaction.  Asia Bibi is a real face of Islamic justice and equality towards women, a face pained beyond what most of us have ever seen.  Don't turn away, don't pretend Asia doesn't exist.  She is real, as real as your Christmas turkey but much less tasty.

When you sit down for holiday meals, think of Asia and what she is eating.  Think about what chair she is not sitting on, what drink she is not allowed to have, her family not being able to enjoy her for this time of year and the very real possibility she will never see the light of a free day again.

Enjoy your holiday meal, it certainly will not be your last.  

From AsiaNews December 20 by Jibran Khan

Christmas in prison for Asia Bibi, sentenced to death for blasphemy
  Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Her only hope for the future is to return to her family, to embrace her daughters, so she asks for our prayers while praying that other "brothers and sisters" will not go to prison on false charges of blasphemy. It will be another Christmas in jail, away from her loved ones, for Asia Bibi, the Christian mother of five children, locked in the women's prison Sheikpura (Punjab), sentenced to death by the " black law" pending appeal, still awaiting for the High Court of Lahore to set a date. Yesterday a delegation of the International Masihi Foundation, an NGO that deals with the legal protection of women, visited her to exchange greetings on the eve of the festive season. And for the first time since the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who was killed by his bodyguard in January last year, Asia has found herself before a large group of people so far, in fact, she could only speak with her husband and the lawyer during the weekly interview with relatives.

In her isolation cell, looking tired and aged, beyond her 46 years, fragile and very weak, she can barely stand up. Entering the room reserved for meetings escorted by two guards, she appears confused and her eyes run from right to left for the duration of the meeting, about 2 hours and 20 minutes, with alternating emotions ranging from tears to laughter, as well as long periods of silence. Her voice is weak, for the first 10 minutes she can not figure out if the members of the delegation are "friends or enemies." She stops talking when a prison guard enters the room and when they ask how she is treated by the prison authorities she looks away, as if she had not heard the question and closes in a stubborn silence.

Our AsiaNews correspondent attended the meeting with Asia Bibi and spoke with her. Here, below, the responses of a woman who - even in a situation of extreme difficulty –has not lost hope and her desire to fight for her freedom and for her family.

Asia Bibi, on the eve of Christmas, what are your hopes and expectations?

I will answer honestly, I do not know. What do you think will happen? I continue to pray and fast for my family. I wish with all my being to be with my family. I want to hug my daughters. And I still cherish the hope that one day I will be freed.

What message would you like to give to Pakistani Christians and those around the world who pray for you?

Please continue to pray for my return to my family. And I am immensely grateful for the prayers.

Do you have a special day, which breaks the daily monotony of prison?

I lost all sense of celebration, the only day I know, hate and - unfortunately - remember clearly is June 9, the darkest and most painful day of my life when I was arrested. I would not wish even my worst enemy to suffer what I myself have had to endure, what both I and my family have experienced since that terrible June 9. For us it was a nightmare and from then on I lost track of time. In prison you lose track of time, time, day, month.

Read it all

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