Asia Bibi, under sentence of death for blasphemy in Pakistan, forgives her persecutors
Asia Bibi, the Christian woman who has spent her seventh Christmas behind bars under death sentence in Pakistan for blasphemy, has forgiven her persecutors.
According to a report by Paolo Affatato in the Italian newspaper La Stampa, Bibi told family who visited her in prison 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."
The Supreme Court is expected soon to fix the appeal hearing.
Bibi, 50, who has five children, went on to say to her family: "Jesus made this happy day for me and has accepted my prayers. I'm excited and full of joy in meeting today my family and celebrate Christmas with you."
Christmas Eve is also a festival day for Muslims. Bibi continued: "Today is also the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. 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."
She added: "I pray that the Holy Prophet Muhammad will bestow wisdom on his followers so that peace can go on being built around the world. I pray that Jesus Christ will grant peace to the whole world."
She pleaded for prayers from Christians worldwide that the Supreme Court find in her favour.
Khalil Tahir Sindhu, a Catholic lawyer who has followed the case and who is minister for minorities and human rights in Punjab, described her as the "paradigm" at Christmas for Christians living in Pakistan. Such people were "proponents of a message of harmony and hope," he said.
Her husband Ashiq Masih and Joseph Nadeem, director of Renaissance Education Foundation in Lahore and family guardian, were "deeply impressed" by her words, according to La Stampa.
Pakistan's draconian blasphemy laws have led to widespread misery and injustice among minorities. There were 1,400 cases reported in 2014. Pakistani courts have sentenced three people to death, six to life imprisonment and three others to two years in prison for blasphemy.
Nisar Shar, a lawyer and spokesman for the association of lawyers in Karachi, said that even for lawyers it has become dangerous to defend an individual accused of blasphemy. Bibi's own lawyer is a Muslim but has decided to remain with her case.
La Stampa concluded: "She is a woman who, inundated by the grace of God, gives her blessing to her own story, a story which human reason can only see as wrong, twisted and unfortunate."