Western countries must give Asia Bibi asylum, say Christian campaigners

ReutersBibi's daughters pose with an image of their mother while standing outside their residence in Sheikhupura located in Pakistan's Punjab Province.

Christians campaigning for the release of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman on death row for blasphemy, are calling upon Western countries to offer her asylum.

The call was made as a final appeal against her death sentence was heard in court on Monday in which a decision was reserved by the judge.

Bibi was sentenced to death in 2010 and Pakistani Christians have been praying for her release ever since. However, they fear that even if the sentence is overturned, she will be killed by extremists upon release.

Monday marked the final hearing in a lengthy appeal against her death sentence.

Leighton Medley, of the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) said the court hearing was like 'D-Day' for Bibi, who has spent the last decade in prison, separated from her husband and children.

'We must have faith that God can intervene in this situation and this mountain will be removed, it is very much like going into the lion's den,' said Medley.

'It truly is D-Day for Asia, this is the final countdown and we will soon know whether the extremists win or lose and whether there will be peace and justice in Pakistan or just more hatred, prejudice and intolerance which sadly has come to typify Pakistan today.'

The BPCA said that radical Muslims renewed calls for Bibi's death in the run-up to Monday's appeal hearing.

Chairman of the BPCA, Wilson Chowdhry, said Western nations need to hold Pakistan to account and ensure asylum is offered to Bibi in the event of her release.

'Asylum must be automatic and immediate safe haven for this family [sic] and Western nations need to be holding Pakistan to account for how or whether they in fact protect minority groups,' he said.

'These charges have been proven false time and again and it is time for her to return home to her family. Clearly she will need asylum in a Western country where she can live out the remainder of her days in peace.'

He said it was not safe for Bibi to remain in Pakistan if she is freed and that further delays to a final ruling on the appeal would only place her in more danger because of the 'draconian' conditions in prison.

'The longer she is in Pakistan, the longer she is a trigger for unwarranted violence by extremists,' he said.

Bibi's family were in the UK this month to raise awareness of her plight. Her husband Ashiq Masih said at an Aid to the Church in Need event in Lancaster last week that his wife was staying strong despite her ordeal.

'She is psychologically, physically and spiritually strong,' he said. 'Having a very strong faith, she is ready and willing to die for Christ. She will never convert to Islam.'

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