“During my detention, I held the hand of Christ. It is thanks to him that I have stayed standing. Do not be afraid.”(1)
The words of Asia Bibi – spoken in an interview she gave this February to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need – provide a glimpse into the trauma one woman suffered. Hers was a story of terrible injustice which gripped the world’s media.
Her 10 years behind bars made Asia’s struggle to regain her freedom a cause celebre. And her case is all the more notable for the fact that Asia was the first woman in Pakistan sentenced to death for blasphemy. Central to her conviction, as became apparent in the protracted court proceedings she endured, was the fact that Asia is a Christian. She suffered because of her faith.
For this reason, her story and the worldwide attention it garnered is unique in the sphere of news reporting on human rights abuses. Rarely if ever has the media rallied to the cause of a persecuted Christian.
In highlighting the significance of the Asia Bibi story, this article sets out to demonstrate that, while it was remarkable that she should finally win back her freedom, there is as yet no breakthrough in the wider struggle for the defence of Christians and other oppressed religious minorities in Pakistan. They routinely experience egregious persecution and yet it is largely ignored by the West.
As a Catholic charity committed to the cause of supporting persecuted Christians, Aid to the Church in Need is working to enable justice for people who, like Asia Bibi, have been accused of blasphemy, not least the 30 or more Christians currently behind bars.