November 6, 2018 - Tuesday
For Asia Bibi, a Prison without Bars
Asia Bibi may have been acquitted, but she still isn't free. The radical Muslim mobs are still protesting in the Pakistani streets, chanting for the Christian woman's death. Prison, for now, is the safest haven she has.
For Bibi, who won a historic victory from nine-year-old blasphemy charges in court, the ruling was a shock. After almost a decade of solitary confinement, the idea of seeing her children and living a somewhat normal life seemed impossible. After all, she'd been accused of one of the Muslim country's worst crimes: defiling Mohammed. But no proof of the charges had ever been found, and three judges (whose lives are also very much in jeopardy), ruled for Bibi to be released.
Days later, she's still very much locked down, as Pakistani officials do everything they can to prevent an assassination attempt on her life. According to CNN, the local army and intelligence services "have jurisdiction over the jail and are in charge of her safety. Extra surveillance cameras have been installed at the converted jail in recent days, and any individuals entering or leaving the location are searched, including those who are charged with preparing Bibi's food, according to the police source."
Asia's attorney, Saiful Malook, was forced to leave the country by the U.N. and E.U., who feared he might also be killed for representing her. "I pressed them that I would not leave the country unless I get Asia out of the prison." In the meantime, global leaders from the U.S., Canada, U.K., and Italy are all working frantically to get Bibi out of danger. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Salvini is one of many offering asylum. "I want women and children whose lives are at risk to be able to have a secure future, in our country or in other Western countries, so I will do everything humanly possible to guarantee that..."
Of course, Western leaders are also casting a worried eye toward Egypt, where a group of masked Islamic gunmen boarded a bus of Coptic Christians, grabbed their cell phones, and shot the men dead. According to the church's Facebook page, six of the eight victims were from the same family. The other bus of Christians escaped. For President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, who' is working to restore tolerance for all faiths in Egypt, this tragedy is exactly what his administration has worked so diligently to prevent. Having met and talked with al-Sissi about religious freedom, I know that this massacre will trouble him greatly as it does us.
"I mourn with deep sorrow the martyrs who were killed today by treacherous hands which aim to undermine the solid fabric of the nation, and I wish speedy recovery for the injured," Sissi said in a statement. "I confirm our determination to continue our efforts to combat dark terrorism and apprehend the culprits." Those efforts, fortunately, will have the Trump administration's support. For the last two years, we've watched this president make the persecuted a priority -- a stark contrast between his agenda and his predecessor's. And although it will take more time to repair the damage done to America's credibility on the issue, we continue to be grateful that we finally have a leader who will try.
In the meantime, please continue to pray with us -- for the safety of Asia Bibi, for the comfort of so many mourning families in Egypt, and for a day when men and women of all faiths can finally live together in peace.