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ISLAMABAD (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Christian woman convicted on blasphemy charges is appealing to the Pakistan Supreme Court.
Aasiya Noreen "Asia" Bibi is a mother of five from Ittan Wali, a village in central Pakistan. She has been in prison for nine years due to a comment she made about Mohammed, the founder of Islam, that was deemed blasphemous.
Bibi faces a death sentence after being found guilty in December 2010 of blasphemy. Her legal team fought a tough legal battle ever since. In the last stage of that legal battle, her case is being heard Monday by the country's highest court.
Monday afternoon local time, the Pakistan Supreme Court announced it had postponed its final ruling.
If the Supreme Court upholds Bibi's sentence, she will be the first woman executed for blasphemy in Pakistan.
Even though Bibi may soon become the first woman executed under Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws, numerous men in the country have already met that fate. For instance, just last month a Muslim man was sentenced to death for speaking ill of Islam and Mohammed.
Dominican priest Fr. James Channan, based out of Lahore in Pakistan, told Agenzia Fides about the Asia Bibi case, "It is good to know that, after such a long time, Asia Bibi's case is brought to trial. Many people are praying for her release in Pakistan and around the world."
Father Channan runs a ministry which promotes peaceful relations between Christians and Muslims.
"It is our firm hope that, thanks to continuous prayer, she can be released," Fr. Channan said.
He continued, "I am sure that the panel of judges will examine the case without prejudice and that justice will be done, without being influenced by external pressures."
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 "haram," an Islamic term for things deemed religiously "forbidden" or "unclean."
The woman shouted to other Muslim women working in the fields that Bibi, being a Christian, had made the water and vessels unclean for Muslims. 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. She has been imprisoned ever since.
In 2011, the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was murdered by his bodyguard after he tried to seek clemency for Bibi, who lived in the province of Punjab. The governor's bodyguard, in turn, was executed for murder.
While Punjab is the name of a province in Pakistan, the word can also refer to a much broader geographical region that runs through both Pakistan and India. (In fact, there is a state in northern India also called Punjab.)
During an interview in Rome in September, Cdl. Joseph Coutts, archbishop of Karachi, Pakistan, spoke with AsiaNews about how hard it would be to change Pakistan's blasphemy laws.
"Those who try to change the situation, such as those who demand the abolition of the blasphemy law, are usually dismissed," Cdl. Coutts noted. "But we will not give up."
This month, Bibi's husband, Ashiq Masih, and daughter, Eisham Ashiq, are speaking at events throughout the United Kingdom, organized by Aid to the Church in Need.