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OTTAWA, Ontario (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Catholic mother from Pakistan who fled to Canada in fear for her life is calling on the world to help wrongly convicted Christians like her.
After years of struggle in the courts, Aasiya Noreen "Asia" Bibi — a 54-year-old Catholic mother of five — was acquited of charges of blasphemy in the Pakistan Supreme Court last October. Islamic fundamentalists all over Pakistan protested the acquittal, demanding Bibi's death for allegedly speaking ill of the prophet Mohammad.
Since the acquittal, Bibi and her family have lived in fear for their lives. Several countries offered asylum to the family. Eventually, they fled to an undisclosed location in Canada.
Now, the Catholic mother and refugee is speaking out from hiding.
Bibi gave comments to The Telegraph that were published Aug 31. She claimed the legal battle and the death threats have been devastating, saying, "My whole life suffered, my children suffered and this had a huge impact on my life."
While expressing gratitude for her own acquittal, Bibi highlighted the fact that many others in Pakistan have been wrongly convicted of blaspheming Islam like she was.
"There are many other cases," Bibi told The Telegraph, "where the accused are lying in jail for years, and their decision should also be done on merit. The world should listen to them."
She went on to say:
I request the whole world to pay attention to this issue. The way any person is alleged of blasphemy without any proper investigation, without any proper proof — that should be noticed. This blasphemy law should be reviewed and there should be proper investigation mechanisms while applying this law. We should not consider anyone sinful for this act without any proof.
Bibi spoke about her years in prison before the Pakistan Supreme Court acquited her. Cases like hers often drag on because judges are afraid of violence from fellow Muslims for declaring an alleged blasphemer innocent.
"Sometimes I was so disappointed and losing courage, I used to wonder whether I was coming out of jail or not, what would happen next, whether I would remain here all my life," she said.
She recalled, "When my daughters visited me in jail, I never cried in front of them, but when they went after meeting me in jail, I used to cry alone, filled with pain and grief. I used to think about them all the time, how they are living."
In 2009, Bibi was getting water from a well when a Muslim woman declared that both the water and the vessels used to obtain it were now unclean for Muslims to use.
The woman shouted to other Muslim women working in the fields. The Muslim women gathered, bitter arguments ensued and the women kept pressuring Bibi to convert to Islam. The Christian woman sealed her fate when she shot back, "What did your Prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind?"
The Muslim women became enraged, and Bibi fled amid shouting and spitting. A Muslim mob violently harassed her a few days later, and local police took the woman to jail, covered in blood.
Following Bibi's 2010 conviction for blasphemy, Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer spoke out in her defense and was killed. Taseer's killer, Mumtaz Qadri, was hanged in 2016 for the murder. A political movement rallied around Qadri's cause of defending Pakistan's blasphemy laws.
Bibi was the first woman in Pakistan convicted under the nation's blasphemy laws. If not for the Supreme Court ruling in her favor, she might have been the first woman executed for blasphemy in Pakistan.
Those found guilty of blasphemy in Pakistan often fall victim to extrajudicial killings by Islamic zealots before the death penalty can be administered.