PAKISTAN: Asia Bibi fasting for justice during Lent

Asia Bibi (45) the Christian farm labourer condemned to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, is fasting and praying “for peace and justice” during Lent and has asked all Christians to continue to pray for her.

“I want to offer up my suffering to God to be close to Him,” Asia said. “I want to thank all those who are praying with me, throughout the world: I feel their support. I want to say to them that I pray for them all and ask God, who is Divine Providence, to bless them.”

The Masihi Foundation, a Pakistani charity dedicated to helping and protecting the poor and vulnerable, is providing legal and financial assistance to Asia Bibi. The director of the Foundation, Barkat Masih, described Asia as “a fragile and vulnerable person”.

“We are worried about her health and have asked prison authorities to allow a team of doctors to visit her,” he said. “I would not like this prolonged fasting to affect her health and weaken her too much.”

Barkat Masih said that Asia has been in an isolation cell for two months, and “needs to get air and see the sun… The authorities say that they cannot allow that due to security risks. But now it is also time to protect her health. We don’t want her to collapse.”

Asia is being kept in isolation for fear that she will be killed in prison, as Islamist extremists want her dead and there is a price on her head. Asia is waiting for her appeal to be heard in the High Court of Lahore. In the meantime, her family is in hiding. Her husband, Ashiq Masih, cannot work and their children cannot go to school, as they have been declared targets. They are fasting too.

Asia and Ashiq have five children (four girls and a boy, ranging up to 20 years of age). Asia is birth mother to two girls and stepmother to three children born to Ashiq in a previous marriage. Their daughter Isham (12) has an intellectual disability. “She is my joy,” said Asia. “She is a very good girl with a bright smile. It hurts me so bad not to see her grow up.”

After the assassination of Shabhaz Bhatti on 2 March 2011, Asia said, “Part of my hope died with Shabhaz Bhatti, but there are other things that give me hope: the support of all Christians in Pakistan and around the world; the visit of my children.” (Assist News Service)