Asia Bibi, a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy after spending eight years on death row in Pakistan, has left for Canada to be reunited with her daughters. Pakistani officials and others involved in the case reported Bibi’s move May 9.
Bibi was convicted of blasphemy in 2009 after a quarrel with a fellow farmworker. The Supreme Court overturned her conviction in October 2018 and she had been in protective custody since then.
Wilson Chawdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association told The Associated Press he received a text message from a British diplomat saying “Asia is out.” A close friend of Bibi also confirmed she had left the country. Her lawyer, Saif-ul Malook, said she had already arrived in Canada.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted his pleasure at Bibi’s departure.
“Fantastic news that Asia Bibi appears to have left Pakistan safely,” he tweeted, adding he was about to meet U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “to talk about persecution of Christians around the world.”
The case has brought international attention to Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law which carries an automatic death penalty. The mere suspicion of blasphemy against Islam is enough to ignite mob lynchings in the country. Blasphemy allegations have also been used as intimidation.
A three-judge Supreme Court panel in January ruled there was no compelling reason to overturn the court’s earlier acquittal.
The judges accused those who charged Bibi with blasphemy of committing perjury, but said they would not be tried because of the sensitivity of the case. The judges upheld the blasphemy law.
Pakistan is ranked 5th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
In other news:
The Maranatha Full Gospel Church in the eastern India town of Arrah was vandalized the night before Easter services.
Pastor Anil Juit arrived the morning of April 21 to find a large hole in the back wall of the building and a burned heap of Bibles, religious books, instruments and mats the congregation used to sit on during worship.
Local media portrayed the burning as part of a robbery but nothing was stolen, the pastor told Morning Star News. He said graffiti on the outside of the building suggested the vandalism was the work of Hindu radicals.
The church has used the once-vacant building of the Holy Savior Church of Arrah for its services for five years with permission from the district superintendent of the Methodist Church in India, he said.
Juit said he suspects media coverage of the church’s Good Friday services led to the attack. He and the 70 members of the congregation remained for Easter worship.
India ranks 10th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List. (RNS, MS)