Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian, was wrongly imprisoned on death row in Pakistan for 10 years. Now, safely in Canada, she speaks to the Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about her plight, and that of girls and religious minorities all over Pakistan.
Bibi has become a symbol of the persecution Christian minorities face around the world. In her conversation with Alessandro Monteduro, the director of ACN's Italian Office, Bibi spoke about the suffering of many young Pakistani girls, who are abducted and forced to convert and marry against their wills. In response to two young girls, Huma Younus and Maira Shahbaz, both victim of such abuse, Asia Bibi stated, "I know that these girls are being persecuted and I appeal to Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan, please help our young girls, because none of them should have to suffer like this!"
Parallel to the abuse of young girls in Pakistan are Pakistan's "anti-blasphemy" laws. These laws, according to ACN's regular report on Religious Freedom Worldwide, were incorporated relatively recently in 1986 and create a severe restriction on religious freedom. Any type of derogatory comment towards Islam or defilement of its Holy Scriptures can be punishable by imprisonment for life or a death sentence. Thus these laws can be used by the government to persecute religious minorities such as Bibi, a Christian and mother of five children.
Bibi, wrongly accused by these laws and imprisoned for so long unable to see her family, hopes to use her story of suffering to inspire change and help others in her situation. When speaking to Monteduro, Bibi explained, "At the moment of the founding of Pakistan and its separation from India, our founder Ali Jinnah, in his opening proclamation, guaranteed freedom of religion and thought to all citizens... But today there are some groups which are using the existing laws, and so I appeal to the Prime Minister of Pakistan-especially for the victims of the blasphemy laws and the girls who have been forcibly converted-to safeguard and protect the minorities, who are also Pakistani citizens."
Bibi concluded her message, stating, "As a victim myself, I am speaking from my own experience. I suffered terribly and lived through so many difficulties, but now I am free and I hope that these laws can be changed in such a way as to prevent any abuse of them."