Christian woman on Pakistani death row forgives persecutors for blasphemy charges

by Tobin Perry, |
Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who has been sentenced to death for blasphemy, sits next to the former governor of the Punjab Province Salman Taseer, as he talks to media after visiting her inside the central jail in Sheikhupura, located in Pakistan's Punjab Province. Taseer would later be assassinate by a body guard in part because of his public support of Bibi. | REUTERS/Asad Karim

SHEIKHUPURA, Pakistan (Christian Examiner)—A 50-year-old Roman Catholic woman who recently spent her seventh Christmas in a Pakistani jail for blasphemy says she forgives her persecutors.

I forgive my persecutors, those who have falsely accused me, and I await their forgiveness.

According to the Italian newspaper La Stampa, Asia Bibi told her family when they visited her on Christmas Eve: "Christmas is the celebration of God's mercy. I forgive my persecutors, those who have falsely accused me, and I await their forgiveness."

Bibi was sentenced to death by hanging in November of 2010. The government alleged that the prior year she had been arguing with a group of Muslim women with whom she was picking berries when she insulted Muhammad.

Bibi has denied that charge. According to Christian Today, the country's Supreme Court is expected soon to set a date for her final appeal. If executed, she would become the first Pakistani woman lawfully killed for blasphemy. In 2011 a bodyguard assassinated Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, Pakistan, in part because of his opposition to the country's blasphemy laws and his support of Bibi.

Pakistan's blasphemy laws led to 1,400 such cases in 2014. The courts have sentenced three people to death because of blasphemy.

"Jesus made this happy day for me and has accepted my prayers," said Bibi, the 50-year-old mother of five. "I'm excited and full of joy in meeting today my family and celebrate Christmas with you."

She asked Christians from around the world to pray for the Supreme Court to rule in her favor.

Last October, Charisma News reported rumors had surfaced that Bibi was seriously ill, but a visit by her lawyer confirmed that her health was strong.

"She looked healthy and normal, but I still asked her if she suffered any serious illness," said Saif-ul-Malook, her lawyer. "Asia has totally denied she ever suffered any serious illness since 2009 in prison."

Bibi also expressed respect for the Muslim prophet Muhammad on Christmas Eve, a festival day for Muslims.

"Today is also the birth of the Prophet Muhammad," said Bibi, according to Christian Today. "Peace be upon him, on this day. Honestly I could never even think of disrespect. But, although I have been in prison for seven years, I do not hate those who did me wrong."