It is nearly seven years since a young Pakistani Christian mother was condemned to die for blasphemy, and she still languishes in death row in a Pakistani prison. Her crime: to drink water from the same bucket as her Muslim co-workers, then to defend herself against their accusation that she was unclean and had polluted them.
She shares Multan Central Jail with murderers, drug addicts, robbers, kidnappers and other criminals, 150 prisoners in purported solitary confinement sharing six unhygienic toilets in stifling heat and continually facing the threat of violence.
It is clear that a disgraceful application of Pakistan’s blasphemy law, 295c, has brought tragedy and shame upon Aasiya Noreen (better known as Asia Bibi) and indeed the beautiful nation of Pakistan.
I have written this week to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, asking her to pursue justice and mercy for Asia Bibi and for the protection of the Christian minority in Pakistan. I have also written to the High Commissioner for Pakistan to Australia, Naela Chohan, asking that Pakistan re-open Asia Bibi’s case and acquit her, and also work to protect Christians in Pakistan, who go constantly in fear of their lives and property.
I wrote to Ms Chohan that Pakistan and Australia share interests and values, including the priority of justice with mercy. The treatment of Asia Bibi fails this fundamental test of our shared humanity, and her continued imprisonment brings shame.
I am aware of courageous Pakistanis who are fighting for a more compassionate Pakistan, and pray that Pakistan may be a nation for all Pakistanis, a nation in which all are treated humanely with justice and compassion.
The worldwide Anglican Consultative Council, at its meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, last month, heard in detail about this young woman’s unjust and inhumane treatment. With heavy hearts and minds, that meeting resolved that the Anglican Church stands in solidarity and prayer with Asia Bibi and other victims of the blasphemy law, and urges that her case be re-investigated and that she be honourably acquitted.
This resolution was endorsed by the Melbourne Anglican Archbishop-in-Council.