It is with great concern that we hear of the Lahore High Court’s rejection of the appeal against the death sentence by a Pakistani Christian woman, Asia Bibi. Bibi, a mother of five, has been on death row since November 2010 after being convicted under the blasphemy law. This particular law has been recognized as flawed and has been abused in special circumstances against both religious minorities and Muslims in Pakistan.
The alleged circumstances of the incident which led to the blasphemy charges against Ms Bibi are highly questionable, and the imposition of the death penalty in this case is totally inappropriate. Apart from the issues of religious freedom, the charges, ongoing imprisonment and threat of execution seem to have infringed Ms Bibi’s basic human rights.
I express my strong hope that Pakistan’s Supreme Court will reverse the decision from the lower court in Bibi’s case. I also express my concern for the safety and welfare of Ms Bibi and her family during and after this process, and hopefully when she is eventually released. Their protection and security is a clear responsibility of the Government of Pakistan. I look forward to encouraging people of good will, both in Pakistan and in the wider world, to work together to encourage the amendment in the blasphemy law under which such charges have been made against Asia Bibi.
The protection and security of all citizens regardless of their religious affiliation is a core responsibility of the government of Pakistan, as is putting an end to human rights violations and extra-judicial killings. To promote tolerance, religious harmony and protection of rights of Christians as well as other religious minorities in Pakistan, it is important to ensure justice in cases like that of Asia Bibi.
Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
WCC general secretary