Asia Bibi, the Christian mother condemned to death under Pakistan’s strict blasphemy law, is fasting and praying “for peace and justice” during Lent and has asked the Pope and all Christians to continue to pray for her.
“I want to offer up my suffering to God to be close to Him. I want to thank all those who are praying with me, throughout the world: I feel their support. I want to say to them that I pray for them all and ask God, who is Divine Providence, to bless them,” she told Fides news agency via the Masihi Foundation.
Her husband and children are also fasting “in communion with her.”
The Masihi Foundation is providing legal and financial assistance to Bibi. Its executive director, Barkat Masih, said that Bibi is “a fragile and vulnerable person.”
“We are worried about her health and have asked prison authorities to allow a team of doctors to visit her. I would not like this prolonged fasting to affect her health and weaken her too much,” he explained.
Bibi has been in an isolation cell for two months and needs to get air and see the sun, Masih said.
“The authorities say that they cannot allow that due to security risks. But now it is also time to protect her health. We don't want her to collapse,” he said.
Qamar David, a 55-year-old Catholic man serving a life sentence for blasphemy, was found dead in jail in Karachi in mysterious circumstances. While officials blamed his death on a heart attack, his supporters said he may have been murdered by extremists.
Controversy over the blasphemy law has coincided with deadly attacks from Muslim extremists on prominent figures. The governor of Punjab Salman Taseer, a supporter of Bhatti and an opponent of the law, was murdered by one of his own guards on Jan. 4. The attacker told police he killed the governor because of his opposition to the law.
Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s federal minister for religious minorities, was murdered on March 2. He too opposed the blasphemy law and was the only Christian in Pakistan’s cabinet. Al-Qaida and the Punjab-based Pakistani Taliban Movement claimed responsibility for Bhatti’s killing.
Bibi will have spent two years in jail this coming June. She has said she fears she could be murdered in jail. Extremist groups have offered more than $5,000 for anyone who assassinates her. Bibi’s husband and children have also been declared to be targets.