May 08, 2019
It's one thing to be acquitted and another to be free. No one knows that better than Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi, who may have been released from prison last October but spent months living in fear for her life. For Bibi, who won a historic victory from nine-year-old blasphemy charges in court, the idea of seeing her children and living a somewhat normal life seemed impossible. Until now.
This morning, after weeks of grim reports on international religious liberty, people around the world finally got the news they'd been waiting for: the brave mom was finally safe on Canadian soil! "It is a big day," her attorney, Saiful Malook, told reporters. After seven months of living under guard, "Asia Bibi has left Pakistan and reached Canada. She has reunited with her family. Justice has been dispensed." Malook tipped his hat to the global cooperation that helped them smuggle Bibi out of Pakistan, where riots and protests carried on for days after her charges were overturned. At several points, no one was sure if Bibi would make it out alive on the streets where men held signs saying, "Hang Asia Bibi!"
Leaders around the world deserve credit, Malook insisted, for "st[anding] by Bibi in hard times and work[ing] for her freedom." Across North America, diplomats are breathing a sigh of relief. If there is a silver lining to the case, which resulted in the assassination of at least two of Bibi's outspoken defenders, it's that the world finally understands the danger of apostasy, blasphemy, and anti-conversion laws. Just last week, FRC released a report on the status of apostasy, blasphemy, and anti-conversion laws, which threaten the ability to freely live out, choose, or change one's faith.
In Asia Bibi's case, the only reason she was ever in prison is because fellow farm workers accused her of insulting Islam's Mohammed -- grounds in Pakistan and other places for death. Ultimately, the court couldn't prove the charges and threw them out. But, as FRC's Travis Weber points out, "This sad saga reminds us of the clear threat posed to religious freedom by the abuse of blasphemy laws. These laws -- which infringe on a proper conception of religious freedom -- would be bad enough on their face. Yet quite often, they aren't even used for their ostensible purpose, but become vehicles to settle personal disagreements and even political scores."
For now, though, we celebrate this great day for religious liberty -- and pray for Asia as she settles into her new life. Her flight to freedom is great to see, Travis agreed. "But we must not forget the many others suffering under blasphemy laws around the world -- laws that are still in place in many countries."
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.